Two Delightful Ditties

I started a writing group. It was awesome. In our first meeting, we completed three 10 minute writing sprints, each followed by responses from peers. Here, my delightful darlings, you may find two of those creations:

Prompt 1: Picture an object from your childhood. Write something involving or inspired by it. 

I’m two years old and in a swing. A duck swing. A goofy, yellow duck swing. My sister stands behind me, pushing. I don’t have a fond memory of this first memory of my life but hey, isn’t that fitting for a constructed memory? See: 

I don’t actually remember being in that swing. I don’t feel my sister standing over me. I don’t feel what it’s like to be bald and big-eyed and have my lips puff out like Alec Baldwin doing a Trump impression. I can’t. It’s not a real memory. It’s a memory of a picture my mother (father?) took. A picture I’ve seen countless times and incorporated so much into my being it’s become what feels like my earliest memory. 

I feel sad when I think about it. 

It feels like the outside looking in, interposing on me in a nonconsentual way. Like we’re born and we die and in the middle we waffle around, buffetted and muffeted and ruffeted and scuffed by those bigger or stronger or wiser or older or first. Just first. Because first isn’t even a legitimate benefit. First is just first. It’s born at the right time or the right place or to the right sister or parents. And that reminds me of the melencholy in the world and that makes me sad.

I look back to that picture—that swing where I’m dangling form the ceiling, suspended in some ridiculous duck swing and I’m reminded no person is alone. No one is an individual. No being lives in true isolation. 

Still, at least I was supported. 

Prompt 2: Remember a time something made you angry. Like a 6 out of ten. Dial it up to an 8. Now a 9. Now a 4. What would it be like to live life feeling that level of angry in that situation instead?

“What is sanity?” The blue shrimp told me. 

It was tuesday, and tuesday is when the existentialists meet. 

“I don’t know, but he does,” he replied. 

“You can’t reply to yourself,” I told him, “It’s against the rules” and that’s when it 

broke. 

It shattered to tatters as my grey matter splattered. 

What’s it like to be an honest orange? 

How do orangutans pick a hand? 

What’s a perspective and how does it–? 

Can I please have another? or another? Or a hug. 

I don’t find myself flying most of the time. 

I don’t find myself crying most of the time. 

The words come in and I grasp what I can. 

Most tunas escape their captors. All salmon some day die. 

“This got weird”, I want to say, but then you’ll know that I could’ve stopped it, 

and we forgive those that can’t help it while

lighting aflame those that can. 

What is responsibility? 

What is it to be mean? 

Travelog 191023 (Redacted Version)

Start: [Redacted], Pflugerville, TX

End: [Redacted], Pflugerville, TX

Quotent Quotables: 

  • “Even god couldn’t take the Israelites into the promised land. [It means], ‘you can’t get people to do things they don’t want to do.’” -[Redacted]. 

Delicious Delectables: 

  • Made poached & scrambled eggs using my sous vide machine. Delicious!
  • Ate ham & pepperjack & mayo roll-ups. Yum! 

Real Realizations: 

  • Hourly work that’s scheduled every day [redacted] is GREAT. I could do this for 6 months [redacted]! This must be what it’s like to have a job. Except BETTER! 
  • In school, teachers train you to wait until the last minute to do things (because they change the requirements so often). Turns out this is actually GREAT training for the real world [redacted]!
  • When you care about someone (and ask questions accordingly), they think you’re down to earth. 
  • People like people who care about them. If you stay in control and focus on them, you can get anyone to like you. 

[Redacted]

Exciting Events: 

  • Wrote a new recipe for my cookbook.
  • Talked with [redacted] for a while.
    • Smoked a cigarillo together. 
    • Discussed our old highschool passions. 
  • Phone call with [redacted]. 
    • Just joked around a bunch. 
  • Phone call with [redacted]. 
    • Talked about serious stuff. And our [redacted]. 
  • Worked on [redacted] for 5 hours. Made [redacted]. 

Alluring Activities: 

  • Traveling to New Orleans. Seeing [redacted] & his crazy parties.  

The Heaviest I’ve Ever Been

I stepped on the scale today: 188.4lbs, a new record for personal mass. I showered today, too, for the first time in 11 days. My facial hair and fingernails are growing long. My van is disorganized. I say: LET ‘EM GO. 

I’ve heard of someone “letting themself go.” It typically means, “This person used to be attractive. Now they’re fat.” 

I could hit 200lbs. Perhaps I will.

Is this what happens when I release myself? When I live without restrictions? Instead of eating strict carnivore or low carb, it’s ice cream and pizza and…, oh my!

I could be a bigger man. Right now I’m just a bigger man. 

I worry. I don’t want to fall into a hole I can’t get out of. I don’t think I’m there yet though. And I’m enjoying digging. 

You Little Pisser!

My dog peed on my bed. Twice. Once was after our first vet visit. I didn’t immediately take her to pee. That’s obviously stressful for a dog. I take the blame. The second was tonight, after I returned from a therapy appointment. She waited to pee until I returned. Good doggy. I drove to Walgreens to buy nailclippers, before finding us a parking spot and carrying her to my bed. That’s when she peed.

Did she whimper at me just after I parked? Did she struggle when I carried her to the bed? Was she indicating her pee-ful-ness? In short, is it my fault? 

It must be. Or, at least, my responsibility. When did she last pee? Around 7pm. It’s now 11. Is that too long? How long between pees? How does dog pee work? Halp me google: HOW WORK DOG PEE?

We haven’t established pee-based communication. I don’t have a solid read on her piddle-timing. I lack a feel for her whimpers.

Experts say to avoid punishing dogs. Reward desirable behaviors; punishments don’t help. I shall implement this. It’s nice to know the ethics and psychology align.

I would more effectively learn to take her outside if she rewarded me when I succeeded–via a treat of some kind, say–instead of punishing me–via bed pees–when I don’t.

 

(Post-script addendum: It’s now nearly 1am. I’m so glad to have a cuddlebuddy. All is forgiven. We’ll do better next time.)

The Golden Calf and You

There’s a Jewish summer camp for adults. That sounds so fun. I get a scholarship because I volunteer with a Jewish youth group. The scholarship required an application. One question asked about my favorite Jewish teaching. This is what I wrote:

As a child in Hebrew school, I was the troublemaker. The kid who wouldn’t sit still, whose desk was separated from others by a distance just longer than his arms. Only on one day did I stop making trouble:

I had been scooting around the classroom on my belly when my teacher scratched the side of his nose, our signal for “You’re goofing off, Julian. Stop it.” I ignored it. He signaled for a second time. I ignored it again, because “What’s he gonna do?” Then, he began the story of The Golden Calf. I stopped scooting. I knew this one was going to matter the moment he began. See, The Golden Calf is about worship. It’s about how easy it is to make things sacred. It goes something like this:

“Once upon a time God gave Laws. The first one was “I’m God and that’s it.” Then, Moses, God’s go-between leaves his people alone for TEN MINUTES and they make this statue of a cow, made out of gold. And they were dancing and praying, saying it was their God. Moses got pissed and smashed it.”

Now, why does this matter? What can you learn?

  • You’re going to worship. A man locked in prison worships the sunrise he sees through the bars. Deprived of all your senses, you’ll still worship. Consciously choose what you worship, because you’ll act like it’s all that matters.
  • Physical objects are easily broken, so don’t make them into Gods. This one sounds obvious, but actually drove human history for a while. Did you know one reason Jews were successful was that they didn’t have physical Gods? If your God was a lump of wood or a rock or a statue, invaders could storm in, steal it, and subjugate your people easily… because they literally have your God! But the Jewish God wasn’t represented in idols. Also probably a good analogy for life: if you worship material goods (or money, say), you’ll be crushed whenever they’re broken. Worship ideals, however, like Honesty, Truth, Love, or Honor, and you’ll be much more resolute.
  • It’s easy to build Gods, even accidentally. A friend gifted me an obsidian stone a few months ago. I jokingly began referring to it as “Birdbrain, creator of the universe.” After a while, I noticed I started treating the rock with more respect. I began keeping it safe. Watch out for what you worship, because it’s easy to worship the wrong things. In this case, a stone. Stones are easy to stop worshipping. Hedonism? Codependence? Those are tough worships to drop.

Life advice:

Life advice:

  • You can get worried. Just don’t worry that you’re worried.
  • When one is sufficiently “out there”, one needs to explain what one is doing.
  • What if you just permanently paid attention to your values?
  • If money is speech, then businessmen are the most aligned with the way to acquire power.
  • Perhaps suffering builds discipline and discipline is a force-multiplier.
  • Money is a force-multiplier.
  • “Charity, clarity, levity, and brevity.” – The principles of JFK’s speechwriter.
  • One begins to keep things clean when one has sufficiently appreciated the value of habit.
  • Chicken broth always makes you feel better.

Suffering as a self-improvement strategy?

Making the self suffer is a cornerstone of many successful philosophies:

I was prompted to consider this strategy by Conan O’Brien on his podcast with Stephen Colbert. Both Catholics, they described intentionally putting themselves through strife. “I did hairshirt behavior,” Colbert says (34:37).

Conan (36:27): “This is pain… where any normal person would tell you, any therapist would say, ‘This suffering is unnecessary. You achieved nothing with this suffering.”… I put myself through a lot of torture. And here’s the crazy thing: what happens when you do that and then magical things start to happen for you? You can’t see me because it’s a podcast, but Stephen just pointed his finger at me as if to say, ‘You nailed it.’”

Stephen, a few lines later: “It works.”

Conan: “What I hate, I hate… I hate thait it fucking works.”

Stephen: “And the magical thinking magically thinks that magical thinking worked.”

Conan: “It’s the biggest fight I’ve had over the last five years with therapists and friends.” … “Therapists have said, ‘You don’t need the suffering.’ and I 80% believe them and I’m 20% like, ‘what the fuck do you know?'”

Is making yourself suffer a strategy for improving? Does it work? Comments greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Dad, for an incredible day.

Thanks, Dad, for an incredible day. More connected with you than I’ve felt in memory. Your stories that weaved from place to place—about which I sometimes ask, “what was the point?”—today, the sharing was the point. Maybe that’s always true.

 

Am I focusing on the present because I’m having intensive surgery on Monday?

Could be…

Possibly…

Probably.

 

Right now, I’m afraid. Not of death, but life:

  • What if improving my breathing isn’t miraculous?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if I die?

Death I can deal with. It’s failure that’s unacceptable.

 

I’m donating my tomorrow to high school kids. Teaching, mentoring, engrossed in giving.

 

When I could die at any moment, why do I hop stepping stones?

  • “But Kid, the best stepping-stones are rock and their own right.”

 

I didn’t think about any of that today. Just talked with you, Dad. And I loved it.

If I die Monday, may my tombstone read,“Died doing what he loves.”

On Monday I go in for Jaw Surgery. If I die, I want my tombstone to read, “Died doing what he loves.[1]

I’ve never seen a footnote on a tombstone. Nor ellipses. I’m updating the medium. The joke makes it more palatable.

I joke because I’m afraid. I’m afraid because it’s frightening. I’ve never been closer to death than I will be on Monday.

I’ve always mused on death. I wrote my first auto-obituary at 13. The same way some people use the largesse of space to decrease their anxiety; I use death to accept depression. When I wake up late enough that I feel grumpy, the phrase “death and taxes” echoes in my mind. It reminds me of two crucial elements – timeliness and humor. One makes today matter and the other makes life worth living.

I’m spending tomorrow and Sunday advising a local high school youth group, and Saturday with my dad. If I die, let it be known I went out doing what I loved.

 

[1] Self improvement.

Okay, cocaine.