I have discovered a pattern where I stay awake unproductive, unable to sleep and yet afraid to begin anything meaningful lest I find flow and put off sleep when it could come.
I seem to be always afraid of finding the right thing at the wrong time.
In any case, unable to sleep this evening after four episodes of an old TV show and having - just - started a movie and finding I don't have the attention span to read it, I'm turning to a bit of writing.
It occurs to me that this may be the first time in some while I expect any of this read at any particular point. I've had the occasional comment from a friend which will remind me that I do in fact put this up for the world to read if it happens to care - read or not, that's not the purpose. But I've been saved so many times by the trivial action of someone leaving their own story open for others to stumble over - the co-humanism of being not alone in an experience or perspective - that it seems almost selfish to keep it closed. It doesn't require ego to think that everyone has something to offer, so if by no effort of my own I still help someone, so much the better.
Strange feeling when it's not functionally anonymous, though.
Still trying to discover what meaning is. I suspect I'd find it in harder work, but I give so much during my hours of employment I have very little left for me. I don't think it's just laziness, as I'm hardly lazy in any other part of my life. I think I've burned the candle at both ends for too many years, and that even the time off I did have always featured a dreadfully unhealthy environment.
The little things are going along as I would hope. My progress on independence inspires a tiny glow when I look at it, which isn't as common as it was, which is probably good. Being not-singleminded about it is healthier and probably happier. I have gotten to a point where I don't need things anymore, not often. I spent a giftcard on birthday coffee for myself - an Ethiopian with complex citrus-berry-smoke notes that is almost too good to drink on regular days. I'm trying to learn to let regular days be special sometimes, especially when I don't have a choice in the matter. I certainly am no good at letting special things be special. I had a hard time convincing myself to get lunch with friends on my birthday, so much so that I didn't announce anything until I had just hours to go.
Tomorrow I am allowing to be special-just-because. I have to turn in a rent check - I've been waiting days to do it, as every time I'd mean to swing by I'd either be too pressed for time or they wouldn't be office as expected, and the change in management has meant that their website portal is down. So I'm going to get up early. Damn the dishes and the other chores I usually leave for morning. I'm going to go down as soon as the office opens, and get it taken care of. I'll go back and sit on my balcony in the unseasonable warm sunlight or maybe just open all the bedroom windows and continue the process of letting old things go and when I feel like it I'll go pick up a courtesy fancy coffee and spend the day on our chat system and in a company meeting I'm looking forward to.
Things outside my tiny fragile self-world are changing rapidly. I'm not sure how to approach any of it and for the most part I have been leaving it alone. I come by and visit. I don't ever quite know what to say.
Even that took the wind out of me for over an hour. It's really true - I have no idea what to say. My life is so divergent from everything in their sphere - I go to work, I kill myself, I go home, I sleep or fail to sleep. The time I spend not doing these things is almost universally spent with my partner. That's not an ideal state of affairs, but it is good company.
I run simulation after simulation trying to pin down freedom, like I could press it between the pages of a book for safekeeping, to be called upon preserved and pristine when later desired. I feel for no reason comprehensible to me that if I only stare at the data long enough, wiggle and juggle and tweak the numbers in some arcane method, I will find answers, in particular answers which I like.
I distrust it when I find answers that I like. Statements like "Failed 1 times out of 105 cycles, for a 99.05% success rate" excite fantasies and deep skepticism as inseparable as two faces of a coin. I cannot trust that things will go my way - I have to find action to take as a talisman against the possibility of failure.
Meanwhile - where is the now? What have I done with it that I've hidden it from myself?
I had an idea, a while back, for a tabletop character with a heavy dose of creepy prophetic. The idea was to borrow Odin's two ravens - although it's occurred to me they could serve as more immediate tools than thought and memory. I had a notion to play a prematurely aged woman, scarred and disfigured, perhaps having traded her senses for those she could send away from her - sight and hearing - perhaps one eye and one ear? A friend tells me the new 5e features a warlock class I should look into.
There's something about sacrifices. I think it's the time of year - my circle is more than typically conscious of and curious about Christmas' origins - and thinking of Odin, and Mithras, and then the way this holiday would often enough conclude the slaughter. I had been thinking on what it would mean to make a trade - too often our ideas of magic are in violation of the primary tenets of reality, that is, that something can come from nothing. It's easy enough to handwave the silliness of witches' brews, the notion that a four-leaf clover and a cat's whiskers and a shaft of light from the last moon of the month could come together into something, but I want a scheme of magic that has costs and conservation of energy - maybe even imperfect transference, a resistance in the conduction. A magic-user might trade an eye for clairvoyant sight, but the potency of the new eye might be slighter, or the price steeper - perhaps it's one eye and a year of one's life? An eye and a full season in the working? So I didn't want to let it be taken lightly. Most magical bargains in the fictions I've read were simply too easy to say yes to.
Thus, Odin, and his symbolism. I'm likely to play the character as a woman - there's something that keeps a feminine presentation "home" for me - but I want her to be visibly marked. My other characters heretofore have been plain to mildly pretty, but strong-bodied and young enough to be assumed attractive; this woman could well be only in her mid-thirties and yet pass for much older due to her scars, the sag of her skin, her poor condition, lank hair and dull eyes. She is not dying; she is not decaying - that is not the nature of the magic or the bargain she has struck. But she is aged and weathered, a better part of her health taken from her.
She has bled in my mind to merge with the gods-merchant I thought of, as well; I don't think she's quite the same, as her motives are more self-serving. Perhaps she is what comes of the Second Volume; she-who-acquired, the woman who would glimpse the soul of the world...
And here I am again in a perhaps-doomed journal. It's like a habit I had as a child of scratching messages into fallen leaves - you know you won't be able to hold onto them, but the words had to get out, somehow...
Tonight I watched a film with a character with an eidetic memory and another with congenital analgesia and flickered back in my head to my own sensory peculiarity, touching colors as a child.
I don't remember it as a universality - and I do remember it being most prominent involving my uniformly yellow blanket. But certain textures (satin with a high drag) were deep rose red, others (grainier lighter-drag slippage) watery pink. I lost it, somewhere around preschool. I remember the feeling of being half-out on hydrocodone and sleep deprivation after dental surgery years ago and experiencing it again, and being sad when upon resumption of normal chemical status it went away.
It's very similar to a series of intrusive but remarkable thoughts I possessed and exploited in my teen years as the source of my artwork - I'd have a visual climb into my head full-formed, and try to hash it out as quickly as possible.
1:44 AM - Intermission - suddenly hit with a wave of exhaustion and I might as well ride it to the sea.
8:32 AM- It's always strange how differently the chemistry of the brain renders the mind between night and morning. In daylight - even today's bleak foggy daylight - thoughts are discrete and edges are sharp between ideas. At night everything flows together, which tends to be conducive to creativity for the same reason as I had started writing this piece - the ambiguous distinctions between "this" and "that" are a lot of where my creativity used to come from. I miss synesthesia the same way I miss suddenly putting reality on hold, seeing a completely different place with all the clairsentience of a dream, the established knowledge of context and meaning as tangible as the visual and auditory and olfactory - and how when I came to myself seconds later in possession of a fragment of something that felt so incongruous in my own mundane life. Losing distinction brings the capacity for that sort of conception, but dreaming is immersive, and one often has to choose. For so long I had to shut it out I never thought I'd have it back, and now I realize the object of shutting it out for a time was so I would not have to again.
I think I finally clicked together something that I haven't been able to most my life.
When I was young I held myself to an absurd standard in my entertainment. I demanded everything be intellectually engaging at the highest level and balked from anything less, lest I succumb to base popular pursuits and all discipline fail.
As a result, I have had few guilty pleasures in terms of entertainment - someone once described them as mental twinkies - and those I have had all been in the last few years, really. But recently a bout of illness landed me on the couch, stunned and miserable and at half-capacity, and I picked up a temptation that had been making rounds among my (intellectual! loud! feminist! - in short, admirable) high school friends, rewatching Gilmore Girls from the start.
And suddenly, I get it, in a way I didn't then.
Leaving aside the eerie familiarity of some of the family structure and intense kinship with the younger of the protagonists... I suddenly get what it is to crave catharsis through fiction, what it means. It's not that I've never had the urge to go find a friend - what is fiction with a likable protagonist but a demi-friendship? - going through something comparable to my present situation before, but I've never been able to see the reason why it should be necessary.
For all my reflexive, self-reflective analysis, I discount my own feelings and problems. I elevate those of others. Characters are others, and the most cherished sort moreover, from the genre of friends who we carry with us for years and years and who we so often pick right back up with just where we had left off.
My own feelings aren't important enough for me to give time or mental space to, often enough, but these fictitious friends are precious and cherished and real to me in a way I sometimes am not. I will defend their right to be weak or vulnerable or needy in a way I could not possibly ever justify or see as conscionable in myself. They are beautiful in their foibles and petty concerns, and I waver between feeling distastefully excessive, emotions spilling over the tiny acceptable vessel hopelessly set to the task of constraining them - precisely the same social connotations as the idea of what it is to be fat, rewritten in an emotional context - and feeling rightfully overwhelming, as if perhaps I was not born to be so small and footling as I have been so often told, that the tiny vessel set aside for me to inhabit is worthless and useless and irrelevant, as if the wave that rears up and threatens to engulf me is a flood tide and I am a mountain to have withstood it so long and it is no small marvel that I have managed to brace and shield the world from obliteration under its crashing.
For all that I'm uncertain I'll be able to keep this journal, I suppose I do cherish it more for being tenuous. I've had a lot on my mind lately and few to tell it to.
In the last three hours I haven't been able to get done what I'd have accomplished on 20 minutes this afternoon, and it's all for dwelling on something I'd do better to forget. In exchange I'm working on that next big thing - the question of what my life is about, now. I've been so long trying to free myself from the idea that I belong to other people that while I value self-possession, I have no notion of where to begin.
I have contented myself to focus on the acquisition of power and opportunity - I found myself over the summer playing at the images of the spider, the dragon, those who hoard or build for themselves, who amass, who gather or engineer influence. I have had to content myself. I still have no earthly idea what comes next.
The (welcome) intrusion of conversation set me onto another mental track for a while and I've lost the thread, but I'll be back to this in no time.
I may have lost my password. I'm still logged in on a handful of devices due to the magic of the cookie - but due to an old email registration and the inability to update my information without my current password, and an inexplicable and infuriating lack of current security question, this may be the end of my journal. I changed passwords around the time of the Heartbleed fiasco and I cannot locate my password log from that time. I've managed to guess back into everything else, but if I go silent, o dear friends, this would be why. I'll try and post a link to my new journal if it turns out I have to make one.
October couldn't come soon enough, if only to sweep away August and September, which are better left unrecorded and forgotten, oddly enough.
October will be the month I remember and celebrate, I think.
October is when I learn resiliency and preparation and sink my teeth back in for the firm grip I haven't had since I was making every week.
Tonight I have accomplished the three tasks I set for myself two months ago, before everything went to hell. I was trying to learn new habits and set up to track them, see how I managed. It took until tonight to tick all three boxes in one day.
Find three donations.
I have the opportunity to build something of a new life - it's not like all that much has changed, but enough. Enough to create a psychological barrier between the before and the after, and reinforce the changing of the tale, the closing of the first volume and the open of the second story, and convince myself that I can break from what was.
Of the last goal: I find myself struggling. I know which things I never use - when I'm truthful, that category encapsulates most of my bedroom. I hardly ever go in there but to sleep, and half the time I sleep on the couch anyway. I knew, going through the massive paper bags of old tee shirts tonight, that most things in those bags had not seen the light of day in years and I would likely not wear them again, but - what to do with one of every iteration of the Texas State Longbow Championship annual shirt since 2002, care of my dad? The Japanese Garden festival shirts - multiple in 3XL which my mother bought cheap as a way to support the Gardens? The ancient University of Tennessee sweatshirt I have never worn which traced as a gift to my father from my grandfather, or the Academic Masochism shirt I haven't donned since my high school group assembled? How about the myriad shirts from my college's Gaelic Cultural Society, many of which I grin just looking at but which fit tentlike even back then and now billow wide as sails on me?
These items together take up at least a 3'x2'x1' space, which is absurd when I already have such risibly inadequate storage. I could seek out shelving to make more of the space I have, but the real need is to get rid of these things or put them to use, and while I have a few ideas about the latter for at least some things - apparently tee shirts make great produce bags, when combined with a pair of scissors - there are almost too many of these for even that to be a reasonable idea and not just an excuse.
I have four pairs of jeans I'm also retaining for the denim, for much the same reason. I had a great idea for a messenger/ laptop bag - something smaller and lighter than my massive, traveling-carry-on size business bag - but haven't ever had the time to put the thing together. That's nearly another cubic square foot of space, although a part of me still really wants that bag and everything it symbolized then and keeps whispering about a lifestyle that would make having it worthwhile....
I have dresses I've almost, or never, worn due to indifferent fit that I never got around to restitching for my frame. I have tee shirts in perfect size and condition, but which just make me feel frumpy; I bought and wore them by preference when I was trying to minimize myself to the outside world, to be invisible, during a relationship that made me feel that way - so that I would never be reminded how good it could feel to be perceived as desirable, and thus become malcontented where I was (ghastly little epiphany, that, but then we in my family excel at self-denial doublethink, and the undervaluation of our own happiness relative to commitments.)
Some of this is realizing I only have enough lifetime for a few pursuits, and struggling to narrow it down. Much more of it is simply struggling with the emotional shackles I have been given, in all these little gifts. I feel heartless disposing of possessions which people I care about wanted me to have. It's very hard not to feel the sentiment of the gift in the thing itself. I've had success with some possessions in photographing them, but many others - the combination of sentimentality and utility, even without any utilization, is very hard to resist.
“My ambition is to have beautiful encounters, not to make money.” - Juliette Binoche
I was reading not so long ago a journal belonging to a person who felt we are becoming incapable of enjoying anything except voyeuristically - thorough the lens of how we feel we might be perceived in that moment by others. The rise of selfie-culture, of blogging, of crafting an artificialized and idealized angle on our own lives - becoming curators to our own museum of existence. When I was first confronted with this idea, I wanted to call bullshit - people always wanted to be perceived as their most ideal selves. That's what fashion has always been about; it's what propriety and breeding and manners were about. We've always been very conscious of what is called impression management. But there's a certain increase in my own experience of this.
I have friends who maintain active Instagram accounts who are posting little more than images of themselves and what they're eating or otherwise consuming. On someone with a strong sense of identity this would just be a brain dump space; in most cases I see this from people with little to no sense of identity, trying to craft a sense of self. This is increasingly, yes, a matter of impression management. Rather than journaling, rather than writing down life experiences, consuming stuff, or images of stuff consumed, has become the autobiography.
I understand it on some level; I like talking about food, I do see part of my identity in relation to what I eat. Given that I grow or kill a good portion of it myself, it seems unsurprising, although I probably self-identify less in terms of my consumption than most people in spite of that. It's not that I've never had a crisis of where I fit in the world, I've just always known who and what I myself was despite not having any idea where to fit in. I never tried on identities, trying to see who I was; I tried fitting a fully-formed me into places I often didn't fit. (Culture's answer, most of the time, to not fitting is that there is too much of you and the answer is to be less, to change yourself. This answer does you no good and can do tremendous harm. The real answer is to find a place big enough.)
Back to topic - Juliette's comment above really got to me, given that her life's work has been in crafting the IMPRESSION of beautiful things, encounters, lives, onscreen. She's well-aware of the imaginary nature of it; she wants to live the reality. Obviously much further out from personal control, I do consider this highly ambitious, in a way many people would not dare dream.
There are challenges floating around all the minimalism and frugality blogs circling around clearing all the food from the house.
I'm clearly not the target audience of a minimalism blog anyway, but the two themes tend to go hand-in-hand, so I stumble over a lot of them. But I find this particular challenge just perplexing. From the standpoint of being a cook - who wants an empty pantry??
I don't buy or consume a whole ton of nonperishables - in cans, it's mostly evaporated milk, pumpkin, coconut milk, and tomatoes - in terms of dry goods, it's pastas, rice and grains, sugars, flours (and cornmeal and coconut flake). And then flavorings: spices, herbs, dried mushrooms. I have gotten better about finding ways to squeeze nonperishables into healthy meals, but on the whole I'm happier eating fruit and meat and occasional veggies. Until eggs got stupidly expensive last winter, I was on a largely egg-based diet.
Friday I served up a venison shoulder stew from last year's tiny doe. Cinnamon and cardamon and some of the turkey stock I made off May's turkey (I spent $3 in groceries for May - for carrots and celery for that endeavour). I'm in the process of using up the broths and things I've had frozen in the direction of being able to... make more broths; I have a handful of empty yogurt containers being cleared of previous contents, ready to make bone broths and stock from both the doe and a jillion chicken and turkey carcasses and 'bits'. Fortunately I now have a decent stockpot with an inbuilt strainer pot and this will mean eventually that I have room in my freezer again. Which is good because I think my boyfriend would like to get the remaining critter out of his - while my kitchen is huge for an apartment, his was house-sized when I needed to dismantle a deer.
I am proudly averaging under $90/mo. for groceries right now, which means I'm averaging under $3/day. Today I have had homemade venison stew, homemade vanilla frozen yogurt, homemade strawberry tea, mangoes, mostly-homemade turkey tortellini soup (I bought the pasta), and I'm contemplating the homemade tortilla soup in the fridge because I'm somehow still hungry (the "somehow" probably having to do with eating absolutely nothing yesterday for no particular good reason.) I eat like royalty and I spend less than almost anyone I know. I don't even spend that much time cooking, it seems like; I always feel sort of wistful and sad when I contemplate recipes, like "if I ever get around to it." But there are nights when I'll just throw down and make up two entrees and a side at a time.
I have often-restaurant-quality food at a tenth the price and with far better nutrition - my homemade ice creams have real fat and fractional sugar, my enchiladas use copious cheese but little enough salt; I make a lasagna variant with squash and zucchini instead of noodles and no added sugar or salt and even without meat it's to die for. I need to get a better system of freezing down - I'd like more convenience in my food, pizza and pie crusts, bread rolls and muffins at the ready. If ever I move into a private home or have an indoor closet that would accommodate, I'd like to have an extra freezer - being able to whip out some rosemary rolls and a venison joint and pitch it all in the oven at once and go play some Elder Scrolls XV until dinner's ready would be awfully cool.
It's the first time in an awfully long time that these dreams have felt real. I got slapped with the ugly end of reality after graduation from university and nothing really solidified until over a year after my father's stroke. I sort of vanished as an identity until 2014, actually, because I sank so quickly and with such relief into having work - I took over THREE EXTRA MONTHS' WORK of overtime in 2013, trying to crawl out of the hole I'd found myself in during 2009 and again in 2011. Over SIXTY FULLTIME DAYS. (While I'd love to be able to handle that again for another couple years from a budgetary standpoint, I think my general survival as a human requires I don't attempt it. I've taken less than a hundred hours this year so far as of July, maybe as little as fifty. Maybe I can set a more reasonable goal of "one year's living expenses less rent" per annum. I did put in some pretty good hours after I splurged on my gorgeous new Sandlar boots, and I've gotten great use out of them.)
I guess it highlights how very little it takes to get so very much done, provided it's done consistently over time. I've set loose goals for myself and then doubled or tripled them. If I could do this with my artwork there'd be nothing left to accomplish.