Tag Archives: reflection

In Their Natural Habitat

After a day of open-mall shopping, my girlfriend and I returned to our vehicle in the parking lot, behind which was a gaggle of seagulls embroiled in a noisy grand melee over a paper bag full of discarded food.

“Seagulls in their natural habitat,” she noted.

Seagulls in their natural habitat.  on Twitpic

In further conversation, we agreed that they probably couldn’t catch a fish if their life depended on it, seeing as–thanks to human influence–the diet of an average seagull now consists of equal parts french fries and cheesy puffs.

The manner in which I spent the day made me think deeper on what I was seeing.  Despite the ability of humans to change our habits and our lifestyles, we’ve done ourselves no favors: are we so different from seagulls, given our fluttering about, loud complaining about anything and everything, and our focus on getting our share of the fries?

Cold Weather

It’s seventy degrees outside now, up from where it dropped last night, possibly the last chilly hurrah before summer latches on to us for good. I had the windows open last night despite the chill–or perhaps because of it.  It’s like free air conditioning, after all.

I love cold weather.  Love it for the way it makes me feel and the things of which it reminds me.  I’ve never been much for the heat.  In fact, I wilt in humidity.  Cue an image of salad greens and ovens or some such.

Cold weather means cozy sweatshirts and pajama pants.  It means blankets, curled up on the couch with movies and hot chocolate, holding coffee mugs with both hands in order to warm them up, soups and stews, sitting outside on the porch in a beam of sunlight to warm up.

Cold weather means fall, when the temperature drops and the leaves begin to turn orange and yellow, and it means cold, wet, rainy, and overcast days, where the leaves and water and dirt mix into a gritty grime that covers sidewalks, crunches under my shoes, and reminds me just how nice it is to stay inside.  On the tail of the first fall weather means October isn’t far away, and that Halloween–my favorite holiday–will be here soon, so it’s time to get a costume ready.

The cold also reminds me of books and stories. Maybe it’s because I write stories, and so many things remind me so, but maybe it’s also because the cold weather keeps us inside, glued to a book or Harry Potter DVDs, and encourages us to retreat deeper into our imaginations to defeat or escape the grey outside.

I’m doing my best to enjoy the cool while it lasts.  Summer will be long and warm, a relentless mix of humidity and misery that won’t let up for months.  But for now, the windows are open, there’s a chill on the breeze, goosebumps on my skin; and it is amazing.

About Me (2012)

Note: this is the latest text for my About page.

When it comes to things I do, I write fiction and am a musician and beginning composer, among other things.

My general interests in no particular order are:

  • myth and folklore;
  • writing and storytelling;
  • health and medicine (both physical and mental);
  • thinking, organizing information, and making connections between ideas.

I avoid taking on new hobbies whenever possible.

The limit, you see, is time and energy.  I’ve been an English major, pre-med with emphasis on neurobiology, a middle school science teacher, a programmer.  They’re all interests of mine that I would pursue if only I had the time.  But there are (at minimum) two true things about the world and life in it:

* We have to make decisions
* Life and time will move on whether we make decisions or not

I can either float along, paralyzed with indecision and a fear of deciding, thus accepting by default whatever comes my way and kicks down the door, or I can make the effort to pursue something more.  Greatness and happiness are not passive affairs.

In the past, I wondered and worried about making the “right” decision, but now that I’m on the other side of about ten years of worry, I don’t think there’s a right decision at all.  Instead, what I’m left with is the responsibility to choose what I feel is best for me right now.

I’m working on accepting that I’m not limited to doing one thing ad nauseum for the rest of my life.  Not only is the workplace changing and people are turning over through companies and careers at an ever-increasing pace, but I’ve found that the “one thing” approach isn’t a fit for my personality.  The core of this new idea is that I can devote time to a passion, and then move on to another passion, without feeling like I can’t commit to anything or have failed or “wasn’t serious”.  Or I can work on two or more things simultaneously, and, given enough work, reach a level of happiness in each.

In this new world of mine, there is no more guilt about not sticking with something or “killing my darlings”, said darlings being all those projects I want to do, things I want to learn, and careers I want to pursue that will suffer when my attention turns elsewhere.  Moving in a new direction does not mean I don’t care about what has come before or that I can never return to it.  After all, each “right thing” felt like the right one at the time, and each contributes to “me” as a whole and hopefully helps me become a better person along the way.

When I started this blog, I intended on writing a new “about” page for each new year–and fell short of my goal in spectacular fashion.  This update is another attempt to start a habit that I tried to form a few years ago.

When I wrote my update in 2010, I was set in a creative space (as my many updates about writing will attest).  2012 will be a year of change and new directions.  I’m still working on what that “right for me right now” decision will be and where it will take me.

Do It Every Day

One of the simplest secrets of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far–which, while not overwhelming, is at least something more than nothing–can be attributed to this paragraph I encountered years ago.

Do it every day.
Want to become a concert pianist? Do it every day.
Want to become a writer? Do it every day.
Want to become depressed? Think of depressing thoughts every day.
Want to become an optimist? Think of cheerful thoughts every day.
Do it every day.
–Robert Anton Wilson

It’s one of those things that’s simple but not necessarily easy.  I’ve kept a copy of that text in various places over the years.  It used to be my home location in my browser, so that I’d see it first thing when I sat down.  For a number of years, it hung on the wall by my work computer, so that I could see it every day and remind myself that my true work never happened at that desk.

Within it is the idea that we make ourselves.  That the outside only forms us up to a point–and the rest is up to us.  Also hidden in there is the idea that small effort, applied consistently over time, will get you where you want to go.

There are days when it’s hard.  And days when I missed it completely.  The important thing is to move on from there and make sure you do whatever-it-is the next day.  Don’t double up to make up for lost time.  Don’t let the guilt keep you from getting back to business the next day.  Just be there, do it.

Even if it was 500 words a day, I eventually ended up with stories.  Then there’s the whole “pyramids and bricks” thing.  Yadda-yadda.  You know the routine.

The only thing I would add to the above quoted text is this: every day, ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.  What makes it worthwhile?  Is it what you want to be doing?  This goes back to the mental aspects that Wilson included and can help you adjust your thinking.

The answer, along with the daily reminder to “do it every day,” will give you a good push in the direction you want to go.

Look At Your Past Without Guilt

A friend and I were talking yesterday, and she mentioned how so-and-so had done such-and-such by the age of somewhere-in-the-mid-20s.  This, she said, made her feel lame in comparison.

I replied with a few thoughts, and then, as usually happens, thought to myself, wait a minute.  That was a Thing. I usually forget stuff if I don’t write it down, so I tried to condense what I was thinking into a tweet:

Look at your past without guilt over what you haven’t accomplished. If you don’t like what you see, use that as fuel to change going forward.

The problem is that we often make the mistake of comparing ourselves to someone else and letting that form into a type of self-judgement, whether that someone is another person or some image of what we want to be or think we should be but aren’t.  What I was getting at in my responses to my friend and that tweet is that our past has passed, is water under the bridge, spilled milk, and so on.  When it comes to the accomplishments of yesterday, there’s no room for guilt. Any time spent sighing over what we could have or should have accomplished is a waste.

We also tend to underestimate our past accomplishments, but that’s the subject of another post.

What our past does give us, though, is fuel for changing our future.  If you look back and find yourself lacking in what you’d hoped you would accomplish, let that drive you to change what comes next.

Did you write that book / run that marathon / start that business?   No?   Then it comes down to the playground question: what are you gonna do about it?

Do you wish you would have painted more, photographed more, written more, traveled more, or, hell, I don’t know, collected more garden gnomes?

Now is your chance.

Our actions speak clearer than hopes and wishes. If you’re committed, you can do this.  It might hurt to give up whatever has consumed your time (ahhh, but something tells me you might not miss it as much as you think), but that’s where the whole fuel thing comes in.  Take that “Damnit, I wish I would have ________” feeling, and ride it like a rocket.  That “I wish I would have” feeling is what will help you cut loose from whatever holds you back.  Direct your efforts ruthlessly to your new pursuit.

Time will go by no matter what.  How will you spend it?