Thursday, April 25, 2013

eels up inside ya, finding an entrance where they can

There is fear, and then there are eels. 

stuff of nightmares, yo.

If you're going to fear a thing anyway, why not make it ridiculous? If every time you walk into the basement, you are met with the overwhelming sensation that centipede, murderer, or animated mouse corpse awaits you around every corner, why not take control?

I believe that inexplicable fear of clowns or spiders or other socially normal fears are chosen by the individual. For awhile as a child I pretended to be, and thus became, afraid of clowns. For no particular reason other than other people were also afraid of the same thing.

As an adult I left Charlotte and Pennywise, instead adopting a perfectly natural normal human fear that in every dark room I would find a GIANT EEL SWIMMING THROUGH THE AIR. By allowing it in long enough for it to feel exercised, I give myself the power to wiggle free from the fear.

Until the inevitable day I am met with an enormous air-swimming eel floating down the basement hallway, of course. Until then I live in intermittent, easily penetrable fear, I suppose.

Try it on, y'all. This is goddamn terrifying. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

1000 x petite mort =

from the Art Nouveau tarot, Antonella Castelli 

This is the loveliest Death. Of all my tarot decks, this one speaks the most to me and my image of death. Gone is the dark-hooded, scythe-wielding skeleton figure who strikes terror in the hearts of men. Instead, this harbinger of irreversible change leans upon a staff as if to catch herself from falling mid-step. In an act of unveiling, she takes down her mask to reveal a repose that is calm and reflective, not sorrowful or distressed.

I am between selves. Death came to my house ages ago, forcing me to strip down my constructs of self, of who I think I am and what I want. I don't know what comes next, or who I am becoming, but I know that it does not end here. The woman I was is not who I will be. My grief for that girl is complete. She served me well, but the life I go to now I cannot approach with outdated modes of thinking.

This is a difficult thing to nail down. I've been deleting and rewriting the same sentences for days. The things I thought I wanted to say refuse to budge.

For some time I have been aware of my complications in sympathizing with others about death. It is difficult for me to refer to death as a loss, as in: I'm sorry for your loss. I never know what to say. "Oh." I had to train myself to apologize at the mention of a loss of a loved one, a pet, a distant relative. I was never comfortable receiving the same apologies, and I'm still not. Prolonged mourning or denial also makes me uncomfortable; euphemisms for death seem strange. Is it prettier or kinder for someone to pass on or away? Is death not kind? I don't want to tart it up--to pretend death is something other than what it is. I don't wish to lessen its impact, or absolve my own fear of the unknown.

Once, I was fascinated by car accidents. I thought I was prepared to die. I wasn't suicidal; I didn't have a particular death wish; probably these thoughts were how I processed the last summit before my father's slow decline. At the time, I thought I had freed myself of the fear of what comes next, and should death come to me, I would go willingly. I wanted to know what everything was like. By rejecting youthful invincibility and instead embracing mortality, I believed I somehow achieved a connection to the elusive infinite.

But I had no concept of the future--or I recognized that my concept of the future was so far from the likely reality that I would rather face death than give up the ghost of the great hereafter.

These days, I do not fear death, but I do not welcome it either. The more I grow into myself, the less I spend late-nights contemplating my insignificant position in the universe. The more love I receive and project, the more I wonder what life is like, and I am not as concerned about the mysteries of death.

During my years of attempting to "live in the moment", I was more like a goldfish than a Buddhist, and I didn't plan much for a future that seemed so far away. Despite this, I seemed to continually have a picture of who I wanted to be next and succeeded in that, for good or ill. One characteristic falls off as it is replaced by another, again and again, until a new persona is built without experiencing any loss at all.

Now, in the future of my departed discontent, I am on the precipice of a greater shift, after a deeper death. In this I am flying blind. I dismissed my former self without an idea of what comes next. Since moving to Minnesota five years ago, I have gone through stages of denial and acceptance, of trying to fight it and eventually letting it win.

I know this is the process of turning 30, and consciously transforming from a directionless, 20-something wanderer into a wife and a mother--someone who isn't afraid to become deeply rooted. But during this period of transition between death and life I find myself repeating: I don't know her name, I don't know the person I am becoming. It's been frightening to take leap after leap of faith into the unknown, praying each time I will find my footing without stumbling too badly.

But there are some things I know for certain: The person I was before is of no use to me now. The new incarnation will be the best one yet. I will have a home and be loved. There is no reason to be afraid. This is the loveliest death.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Japan's Gross National Cool

Cool Japan is the coolest of my favorite television shows that currently air. In truth, I am likely to enjoy any NHK World program. Especially their hourly news segments, since I am far more likely to hear about the rest of the world than whatever alligator broke into a Floridian's house this week, or a story about citizens of Portland and their outrage over the price hike on milkshakes.

To put my love for Cool Japan in context, I also like Long Island Medium, the Minneapolis City Meetings channel (the music on their neighborhood bulletin slides rivals that of classic Weather Channel), QVC, and Community.

Don't hate on QVC. I don't purchase anything; I value it purely for entertainment and inspiration. When I need to brain dump all the words, QVC is invaluable. Those people never stop talking. Surely, if they can do it, so can I. Thus, words flow like watered-down wine.

Pro writing tips, aside: Cool Japan!

The coolest motherfunkers on the planet.
Cool Japan employs a talk-show format where badass Consuls of Cool Risa Stegmayer and Shoji Kokami, along with a panel of foreigners in the process of integration, pose the question: is Japan cool? or... not cool?

Each episode focuses on a general topic (e.g., craftsmen, hospitality, beef, paper) and guests venture into Japan to investigate culturally-specific elements of this topic. After each segment, the hosts, panel, and a Guest Expert will engage in a sociological discussion on whether the matter would be considered "cool" in their native countries.

It is basically the highest form of entertainment I've ever seen. Don't let anyone (i.e., almost everyone I've forced to watch with me) tell you otherwise. I am giddy and gleeful every time Shoji asks, "...or not cool?" "I see, I see." There is such a high level of regard for Cool Japan in my household that it has become the epitome of language modifiers. Allow me to demonstrate.

Filmed before a live studio audience.

Something about the entire concept seemed adorable and strange to me, as though Japan was a high-school student concerned with its image while passing through the hallways.

But! After an embarrassingly basic Wikipedia search, I learned that "cool Japan" is not just a whimsical program designed specifically for my odd tastes. Rather, it is a concept embraced and adopted by the government, "to exploit the commercial capital of the country's culture industry. It has been described as a form of soft power, "the ability to indirectly influence behaviour or interests through cultural or ideological means."

All this time! Here I thought I was enjoying a harmless program and learning a few things about a culture I appreciate almost as much as that of the Swedes, but really I was being coerced, influenced, and propagandized at. The shame! the existential pain! the abject terror!

This is probably why I live in the heart of midwest America and own a stuffed Domo and Mameshiba, love the works of Satoshi Kon and Hayao Miyazaki, desire a charm for my cell phone headphone jack, and am soon to marry someone who temporarily lived in Japan. Clearly I have been infected for years with Japanese cool.

Where is Sweden on this cultural expansion through psychic injection? Are they not cool? Are they not threatened by Japan's cool quotient? I see..

It's just the beginning...
...but despite my imagined culture-war between Sweden and Japan... Cool Japan is... very cool!

On the importance of breakfasting early

"What have we always said is the most important thing?"
"Oh, I thought you meant of the things you eat."
--Arrested Development

For three days in a row, I've eaten breakfast. This is a new habit. Much as I love breakfast food--and I do... just now I felt my temperature rise at the thought of a crab cake eggs benedict and well-done hash browns. Orange juice. Coffee. Distraction. NOM.

Crab cake benedict's evil twin.

Typically, if I eat at all in the morning, I don't eat until after I arrive at work. That's at least two or three hours beyond the time I roll out of bed into whatever clothes are closest in the floor pile, and stumble down the sidewalk to the bus. Mornings are a terrible time full of life-long disappointment, racing pulses, nightmarish sunshine, and the further drift of my dream to write in the morning. 

If my body is lucky, I cram a Pop Tart and Diet Coke down my maw while on the bus. I spend my ride to work entirely manic about bus people and leaves on trees and shit, until the bubbling sugar maelstrom in my stomach erupts and my nervous system collapses just as the manager who jogs at 6 AM is shouting hello.

No caption; too real.

Recently the synchronicity of the universe winked at me, beckoning to dine early. I read about sleep cycles, and how the easiest way to reset your cycle is to fast for 8 to 10 hours, then eat. Body uses this marker as "morning! awake!" Sleep later, allotting 8 hours of sleep before your breakfast time, and tada, suddenly waking up in the morning isn't such a shit show. After I read this, my sidekick walked into the room, turned on the light (I often sit in dark rooms; I am moody) and it was like a real life epiphany.

The next day our local grocery store had a sale on Chex, so I bought 10 of them. Go hard.

Eating cereal for breakfast is a crap idea--poor nutrition, false energy--but you know what? It's a start. And here I am, a living goddamn testament to the power of morning feeding. I have twenty minutes before I need to even leave for work and I've painted my nails, written this blog post, listened to half a Tom Waits album, and dressed in clothes that I haven't already worn twice this week.

Who cares if I have to drink coffee for the next eight hours because I got up too early? I'm awake!

Now, though I don't seem to be doing it with any regularity, I seem to have started this a to z blogging challenge. You may have noticed. Or you may be so shocked by a second post in as many days that you didn't notice anything out of the ordinary because it's all out of the ordinary. I intended to write on something more spiritually interesting today--Practicing the Art of Banishment--but as it turns out, I have several feelings about breakfast, and I'm out of time. Stay tuned, true believers.

Monday, April 1, 2013

On a lack of presence in one's own life

In lucid dreaming we turn on the lights. We check the time, look at our hands, or try to change the color of the floor. While awake, we repeat; we wish to establish a control. Am I awake? or asleep? If I re-enter my last exit, will memory save me this moment so I won't need to start again?

Am I awake or asleep? In life, I am meant to be present--fully rooted in myself and wholly aware. Instead, it seems I have evacuated in response to an unknown emergency, and I am not myself. Like my voice sits between my tongue and my teeth; it answers for me. Days come in and go out like the endless ocean and my body lumbers along like a full sail with no captain. I remember no dates. I walk into rooms without knowing why. Dreams are scarce.

If the difficulties I've had in ending sleep while dreaming have carried over into my waking life, then how do I rise and return to myself? What are the tricks for remaining present in one's life?

Consider first that you are not present. Check all your buckles and be sure you really exist.

Breathe. Drink water. Breathe more. Close your eyes and hold yourself still. Resist the urge to wander at all pauses.

Press your feet to the ground and nail them in; lay your back along the hard spine of the earth.

Speak to yourself in one voice only. Make that the voice of one moment only.

You do not walk on air. Your head is not on fire. The inert ecstasies and frenzied melancholies are constructs designed to keep you from yourself--and to keep you re-writing sentences long after you should have been asleep, until the blog post you started writing looks nothing like what you have on the screen.

Consider that you are not yourself, and learn on the thesaurus website that ecstasy is to stand outside the ordinary self, while enstasy is to stand inside the self (and that, yes, isn't that what we're talking about?) Look for a further definition on the same website and be told no, sorry. no results found.

So if that isn't dream-like, I don't know what this is. See you when the sun rises.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

to a land of cucumber and honey, where Billy never dies

You know how sometimes you have one of those days, even though it's not even Monday, and you've been so sick and overwhelmed by holidays for what feels like an eternity that you work yourself into a frenzy about your lack of personal productivity and the only cure is dinner? The perfect food balanced between good taste--for comfort, and good nutrition--for your health. So you offer to make dinner for your trusty sidekick, even though you worked 9 hours and your cough sounds like you've been bottling your water near a fracking site. Meatloaf? you suggest. Comforting. You can squeeze a lot of vegetables in there too. At a lukewarm response you offer to cook to your sidekick's desire! whatever you'd like! Waffles, he says. Eggs and waffles.

You decide not to pitch a fit in the middle of the produce. You grab cucumbers, tomatoes, and the most robust of the wilting celery. Suffering from produce related mania, your mind is racing: you're going to poach some chicken! You're going to make lunch to take to work again, y'know, those pretty salads in a jar everyone likes to look at, you don't even have to tell them you found it on Tumblr and not on Pinterest! You're going to get your life back on track, man! go to the gym, get out of debt, and uniformly fold your towels, all because of these vegetables.

But by the time you return home you are blinded by half used containers of Cool Whip shoved in the back of the fridge, the crust in the corners of the stove, the particular droop of the house plants, and the new knowledge that champagne wet confetti will stain a wood floor. That tantrum you were about to throw in the grocery store begins a surface boil. All you can think about is that summer you were unemployed and obsessed with The Pioneer Woman, and how tidy and shiny your kitchen was, and how you always danced at noontime, and picked fresh wild raspberries while writing poetry and reading Jhumpa Lahiri, and your hair was always braided, and at least if you weren't actually doing yoga, you were usually thinking about trying to start doing yoga. Is it impossible to have a wage earning job and to live the pleasantest life? Must these pursuits be discordant, forever at odds? Can't your egg and waffle loving sidekick appreciate a less independent woman who prefers picking raspberries over paying bills?

Eggs and waffles, goddamn it. After you clean last week's uneaten vegetables out of the fridge, you set to work on this gourmet masterpiece of gently scrambled eggs and 8-grain frozen waffles. You try to maintain sanity. You try to remind yourself that this mood will pass just as the holidays have and your sickness will, and you start to make lists of all the things to do, scribbling like Patrick Bateman on every page of your mental notebook. The frenzy will not subside. You are feeling unpleasantly out of control, and unable to focus on rinsing vegetables for tomorrow's valiant return of salad in a jar, because those fresh cucumbers you have been looking forward to (as an excuse to eat spinach veggie dip by the cucumber slice) are actually ZUCCHINI, and it's fine you know, it's FINE, but treacherous zucchini isn't what you wanted and now you're going to have to eat celery too and force yourself to be happy about it, because this is what living the pleasantest life is all about, isn't it, peeling and eating vegetables and being happy about it.

And just when you think you maybe went and overcompensated with a celery stalk too many, you open your dedicated container lid drawer to find an amusing quantity of mouse shit.

Which then allows this to become the story of why I ate veggie corn dog minis and three shots of honey whiskey for dinner.

But the truth is that some days you really have to let go. It's not until you say "fuck it, I quit," and mean it, that you realize the pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica is airing on BBC America, and there's nothing so cathartic as crying while a schoolteacher gets sworn in to a job she didn't ask for, didn't want, but will rise to, even if it kills her, again.