07 January 2012

Achievement Unlocked: Happy With Who I Am

Here's an update on my life to weigh out all the times I've posted saying how insecure or overwhelmed I am.

I'm satisfied with where I am. I like the person I've become. My self-loathing is significantly less than my contentment. I know what I want and a ton of resistance to getting there has just...dissolved. I know my context, I understand myself well, and I have all these fantastic tools in use to keep me focused and doing what I want to be doing. I'm awesome!

And what do I want? A house with a view and oceanic kitchen tiles, a big fluffy dog, a self-sufficient income from writing for magazines and other publications, and a person to marry.

That's the real bucket list at the moment. And after that, there's the other bucket list: sail across the Pacific, hang-glide over the Amazon River, write a comic in Fez, and walk across the United States.

I don't know where April's rent is going to come from, and that freaks me out, but I can take that on. I know who I am and what I live for. Just wanted to let you know.

29 July 2011


First of all, my dear friend R. Parisi has released his long-awaited album CRISIS, which is now available on iTunes through his website: http://ronaldparisi.com. Check out the website for free samples, ringtones, and merchandise as well. (The shirts are a goddamn treasure.)

And now, I'm going to unleash some serious self-doubt and wibbling about my future and my present and the apparent imbalances between the two. Be warned, and close this window if you don't want that.

I am on vacation this week, which is much-appreciated and much-needed. The problem is that, by the nature of the summer season, I can't stay on the boat for my vacation time. It simply would not work. So I have to go someplace else for these nine days, which is great because all I really want to do is go home, curl up with a book, a boom box, some tea, and a series of beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and chill. I want to finish Moby-Dick and listen to Crisis a lot. I want to just relax in my own space, on a couch, with nothing and no one to bother me.

But I don't have a home.

I live on a boat with eight other people, for a contracted period of time. My parents' house isn't my home anymore, for all that I love the people who live there. Baltimore isn't home. Pittsburgh is sort of home. Seattle still feels like home, even though the winters try to kill me. But I don't have anywhere I live that's mine.

I long for my little apartment in Capitol Hill. I just spent two hours looking through real estate listings on or near the Hill, breaking my own heart looking at the listing prices.

And that's what it comes down to: I want to buy a house. That babylust that some women get in their thirties, where they just NEED to have a baby, I have now as homelust. I just NEED a home. I can't take the psychic stress of packing all my worldly belongings into a duffel bag anymore. I want plants, and windows, and sunlight, and couches, and knicknacks, and bright paint on the walls, and tilework, and a big fluffy comfy bed, and a fireplace -- I want my own fucking HOME, and not having it is driving me slowly insane.

But I have $2000 to my name, and all the jobs I want to do for hourly wage or salary are all extremely low-paying. (My current job is the highest pay grade I've ever had, and I'm a seacook on a tall ship. Not glamorous or profitable.) So -- and I've known this is true for awhile now -- I need to quit working for other people. I need to start my own fucking business already. It's not going to be a bookshop, although I did love that idea when I had it. I'm thinking about a few other ideas right now. But there's no guarantee that any business I start will succeed, so I don't want to just jump in.

Maybe what I need is to force myself to make it succeed. Raise the stakes. Earn a downpayment and put it on my dreamhouse, then do whatever it takes to pay for it. Maybe that would work. I know myself, and that eustress is damn good for me. I think I could make it work, although the idea makes me sweat bullets. Sweating bullets isn't a bad thing.

Anyway, I'm rambling now. I've had a wonderful visit with the Hubers and now it's time for some rest.

11 June 2011

Mary's Effing Hot Land

(I cheated on this post. It was originally an email to my parents, and I decided to repost it here.)

I've been cook on Lady Maryland for about three weeks now, and it's going beautifully. Stressful, amazing, back aches, sunburn, wind on my face (on good days), getting into the swing of things, mastering new skills, feeling inadequate, feeling totally up to the task, an emotional roller coaster. The crew likes my food and Michael, our captain, says I'm doing a good job. (YAY!) And this is my first day off since Memorial Day, so I'm really wringing all the relaxation I can out of it. I'm going to take a nap and see a movie. It's crazy awesome. I have determined that for my next boat job I'd rather not live aboard, because it's hard to turn my brain off of work mode, since I live at work and it's very hard to get private time. (Nearly impossible to get private time with air conditioning.)

Speaking of air conditioning: The heat in Baltimore is fucking ridiculous. There is no need for this much humidity unless it is actively raining -- and we've had two really awesome rainstorms the last two nights that did little to drop the humidity, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The South is weird.* The last couple of days were just crazy hot -- around 100 degrees -- and we actually took all the kids out of lifejackets on the water, because they were in more danger of heatstroke wearing the jackets than they were of falling off the boat without them. A girl threw up, and we took to misting the kids with cold water at regular intervals, like house plants. (I also learned how to douse the jib, but that's not really related.)

I have spent my entire life disparaging air conditioning and preferring a strategy of opening windows and encouraging circulation. I now understand air conditioning. I've become an A/C rat, scurrying from one air conditioned building to the next as soon as I get off work. I slept in the lighthouse last night because it was air conditioned, even though I was the only one left on the boat for the weekend. I understand how so many people have died in heat waves in cooler regions because they don't habitually have air conditioning. The South understands air conditioning. I'd like to find historical statistics for the number of deaths in the South from heatstroke and other diseases in which your body just fucking broils to death. Why do people live here? My excuse is that I'm only here another couple of weeks before we head north, to normal summer heat, where 80 is never considered "normal" or fucking "cool."

Crazy fucking temperatures. Crazy fucking Southerners. Beautiful fucking pink schooner.

*Yes, there is much debate about whether Maryland really counts as part of the South, and that debate is as hot as the recent record highs. I don't care. It's south of the Mason-Dixon and it topped 90 degrees before June 1st; I am a Yankee and that's South enough for me.

10 April 2011

Review: Sucker Punch

It's taken me nearly a week to figure out how to review Sucker Punch, because there's so much going on in it and my thoughts won't gel. I'm sorry in advance for any lack of eloquence or coherence in this review.

Let's start here: I loved it. I'm going to watch it at least once more in the theater and when it comes out I will pay full price for the DVD.

This is not a movie about girls in sailor outfits killing giant robots with katanas, or about baby prostitutes decked out with guns. It is also not about girls whose sole purpose in the movie is to titillate the male audience. It is not about sex, period. It is about fighting for control of one's own destiny. It is about escape from the system that has been built to enslave nice little girls and fetishize them. It is about reforming reality around one's own needs and desires, in order to cope with whatever it is that is too big for you to handle directly. When you need most desperately to escape being raped and lobotomized in a mental institution full of morally corrupt men, perhaps the most effective method is to re-envision the asylum as a bordello in which you and your comrades fight your way out every time you dance, because when you dance all of you become badass women warriors armed to the teeth, with air support and a series of inhuman enemies. Maybe no other way will get you through. Maybe without all those layers of self-deception and self-manipulation, you would just be a scared little girl waiting in a cell. Maybe they're just your way of getting in touch with yourself, with the strength you keep in the core of you body or the depth of your mind.

It's hard to be strong. It's hard to keep faith with yourself, to hold out hope, to put yourself out there instead of wilting. It's even harder when it's assumed that you can't maintain your strength, that no matter what eventually you will fail. It's damn hard work, being strong. It's hard work being a girl, every second of every day proving your strength. People like to talk about how hard it is proving yourself to the people around you. But that's no problem at all compared to proving yourself to yourself. Doubt is easy. Doubt is seductive. It's so simple just to give up and admit to the weakness that deep inside you fear is all you have. Proving over and over that that weakness is nothing compared to the depth of strength you possess -- well, that takes time. Time in which you must sustain yourself, must persist, must overcome each obstacle (every one of them bigger than the last), must keep that faith in yourself, must hold strong. Until it's enough. Until you believe yourself when you think, "I can do this." Until it doesn't matter what anybody else says.

And maybe it helps to think of yourself as a badass ninja in a sexy costume striking down dragons and zombies and robots -- invincible. Men are vulnerable to sexy costumes, and that makes sexy costumes empowering. (And in the context of this movie, renegotiating the power dynamic of a uniform the characters are forced to wear in the asylum really is winning a power struggle.)

Sucker Punch brings the fight to you. That's what this whole film is about: when any force threatens your soul, you must fight it or die. Haul out your arsenal, put on your lipstick, and kick some ass. As the films says right before the credits roll: "You already have all the weapons you need. Now fight."

For another Sucker Punch review I really like, go here.

03 April 2011

Line in the Sand

Thank God I went to college.

I'm not grateful primarily for the education I got (which was adequate) or the people I met (who were significantly more important) or for all the fun I had (which was a lot, amongst the stress). I am grateful for how fucking unbelievably miserable I was. Thank you for the nights I spent lying in bed unable to sleep because I couldn't see how it was possible to get all my work done. Thank you for my freshman year mantra, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." Thank you for Foster's horrible food, which made me physically nauseous by the end of my first year. Thank you for roommates I couldn't stand, for a study abroad that stressed me out every day, for never having a moment to breathe, for crying without knowing why, for an all-nighter, for D's, for late papers and academic guilt, for feeling less human because I couldn't get my shit together and turn in a damn thing on time that was of any quality, for books I pretended to read, for seasonal affected disorder, for a twenty-minute walk through the snow and ice and sludge uphill both ways. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When I dropped out of college in my second semester, I went back because my parents scared me into it with the health insurance boogeyman. Now, I know that, whether I have insurance or not at any point, I will never let fear of "what might happen" scare me unthinking into a decision about insurance. I know that I can handle years of misery, in unchanging gray skies and a spirit-draining snow-slush-ice-snow-slush cycle, overworked, underfed, underslept, and certainly undersexed and undertraveled. I can endure anything.

But even better than that...I drew a line in the sand and swore to myself I would never do anything like that to myself again. No more school. No more compromises. No more deadlines. No more sludging through misery because it's what I'm supposed to do. Never. That was the moment (in my junior year, sometime in March or February) when everything great in my life that I have now became inevitable, the moment from which the rest of my life will lead triumphantly onward, knowing it has already won.

If you're urging me to go back to school and finish my degree, then it's time you faced exactly what you're telling me you want me to do: you want me to quit pretending I'm God incarnate and act like everyone else, because that's just what people do. Put another way: you're asking me to betray the oath to myself that is the basis for all my self-respect.

And that is the one thing I will never do. I am God incarnate, and I have had enough of the things that other people like to do in order to go along to get along. I don't have any Joneses to keep up with.

All I have is me. Isn't that enough for you?

18 March 2011

Review: The Golden Compass (Spoilers for Movie and for All the Books)

So, I just got around to seeing the Golden Compass movie. And I'll just get it out of the way: the book was better. A lot better. You should read it instead of renting the movie. All that hyped furor from the religious quarter when this movie came out was justified; it certainly beats the viewer over the head with its big fat anti-Catholic Pope-crook. Unforgivably, in my opinion. The anti-Catholic rhetoric steals the helm of the story more than once, and not to the story's benefit. This theme was present in the book, but not nearly to the degree of shameless theme-stick beating that paints the entire movie. (That doesn't come until at least the second book, and it didn't bug me until the third, when Philip Pullman just gave up on common decency and good storytelling altogether.)

The movie is amazing for the acting -- especially the girl who plays Lyra, who is just perfect -- and a lovely use of color and sweeping crane shots. Serafina Pekkala and Lee Scoresby were exactly as they should be.* The bears moved like humans on all fours, which bugged me. Lyra's alethiometer is by no means the only one, and yes, Father Coram has some idea of how to read one; Lyra's gift is the intuitive ability to understand the alethiometer, instead of requiring weeks of study and a huge reference book.

However, the storytelling choice that in many ways baffles me the most is the point in the story at which they chose to end the movie. (SPOILERS!) Immediately after the point at which credits roll, Lyra's father kills Roger in order to fuel the creation of a doorway to another world. Asriel murders her best friend, whom she has led to the slaughter, and Lyra's character is altered forever. Her parents are murderers, she helped kill her best friend, her shiny newly-found dad wants to give her everything she's ever wanted on a silver, blood-soaked platter. It's the most emotionally charged scene in the book (debatably) and a turning point for Lyra. And they cut it out of the movie. As it stands, the movie operates as a very nice introduction to a story that never gets told. Were they planning to do a Subtle Knife movie and just sneak in the killing-Roger-to-fuel-the-gate part? It doesn't fit into that story; you'd have to recap the first movie too much to make it worthwhile. Skipping it entirely just cuts out the guts of Lyra's hero's journey. And the movie they did make just ends...lamely. Flying off into the sunset, quest unfulfilled, character arc unfinished, the climax retrofitted not with personal tragedy but with a big, dumb fight at Bolvangar. This is an epic quest, people. You know because there's a big fat prophecy (also unfulfilled). Do it some fucking justice and go read the book instead.

*With the exception of a personal pet peeve of mine. I hate when people pronounce characters' names differently than I do in my head when I'm reading a book. To me, Serafina Pekkala is pronounced "seh-rah-FEE-nah peh-KAH-luh."

15 March 2011

Lady Maryland: To the Sea!

You know how I asked myself last December, "What will I do come April?!" The answer is:


From mid-June till Thanksgiving, I'll be the cook aboard the Lady Maryland, a lovely schooner based in Baltimore! Yaaaaay! It's going to be awesome, and I'm very, very glad to return to the sea. I don't know what I'll do after this, but it's become apparent to me that I need to learn Maghrebi Arabic. So we'll see. Maybe I will go to Fez, or Tunisia, or Cairo...or somewhere else entirely. Time to take my life into my own hands. :)

Lament of a 21st Century Traveler

As a traveler, an inveterate wanderer, I long to see many things that are gone now. I want to sleep on a roof terrace in Fez under the stars -- but there isn't a city in the world now from which the stars can still be seen at night. Not the stars I'm thinking of, where the Milky Way is as plain as the Big Dipper. I've seen those stars from a mountain in Hawaii, and from the open sea, and nowhere else. I miss them. I like modern conveniences, like plumbing and wifi and cookies, but to achieve them I must kiss goodbye the stars. Choices like these, if nothing else, will keep me wandering. I long to buy a house, but where? Where could I possibly choose to live for long enough to justify a mortgage? In which country, what climate, which degree of civilization? It's impossible. I'll be renting for a long time now, keeping my living places clean and walls eggshell-white for someone else, instead of painting them aqua-green and tiling the kitchen and refitting the cabinetry and putting up contact-paper fishes swimming in the painted sea. I long for my own space to do with as I choose, my own kingdom to tear down or build up or sell as I choose, and yet I have no idea where to put it. If only I could see the stars from the center of a city, I would stake my life there.

09 December 2010

Beyond Seattle

I never thought I would settle in Seattle. Hell, I've been here a year and a half already (minus two months in Hawaii), and I never thought I'd stay that long, honestly. So I'm wondering what I'm going to do when my lease is over at the end of April.

I want to start this bookstore -- I'm eager and anxious to do so, actually, as if the possibility of pulling it off is only effervescent, which is nonsense. I don't think I'll have the capital, or more importantly, the emotional wherewithal necessary for opening a business, by spring.

More than that, opening a business isn't just -- or even, isn't really -- about opening it. I will be tying myself down for years, to one place and one job and one dream. On the one hand, that's awesome. I get to really do it, to drink deep and suck all the marrow out of life. I love that. I think I will sincerely adore running my bookstore. But simultaneously, I am scared shitless of that responsibility and that self-made cage. Since October 1st, 2008 -- just over two years ago -- I have lived in twelve different places. (Those count all the addresses I've lived at, an extended motel stay, and "my car.") I do not have a history of geographical steadfastness. I am an inconstant place-lover. I cheat. A lot. Hell, I couldn't even claim in the first paragraph above that I'd really been in Seattle for a year and half because that time period includes Mountlake Terrace, WA; Ninole, HI; Hilo; HI; and the actual city of Seattle, WA. I mean, hell! I know that I'll be okay in one place with something good going to hold me there, but the historical evidence is severely lacking and I doubt myself.

So I doubt I'll be opening the shop in the spring. Where does that leave me?

I could stay at the cafe until inspiration strikes or they go broke, either of which may happen at any moment. I could build up the life I've started in Seattle. I could grow some roots. hat's tempting, interesting, a different kind of adventure. I could learn to really love it here; I'm already further along that path than I expected to be. It's a possibility, at least for awhile. This bookshop is not a Seattle shop; it's a Midwestern one. So I would know that I'm leaving, no matter what.

I could run away to sea for awhile and get my head straight. It'll be the beginning of sailing season, perfect for running off. I could perhaps get a job on a ship, although my lack of experience makes me pessimistic about that. But I could cook. Or spend some serious time on the Nyckel. I miss the sea. A lot.

I could move to Iowa, or whatever other place looks good for my bookstore. I could start setting down roots there, learning all the things only locals know, get a better feel for where and how to set my shop, see if I can handle living in that place for so long, etc. That sounds fun, honestly.

So I don't know. I've even toyed with the idea of moving back to Pittsburgh for a bit, but that's just this strange bout of homesickness I'm going through. Pgh is where I'm from, not where I'm going. So...no idea.

01 December 2010

Avatar review (SPOILER ALERT)

For dinner tonight, I had pasta with pumpkin-peanut sauce, pumpkin beer, and the movie Avatar. (I'm talking about the one with blue people, not M. Night Shyamalan's latest catastrophe.) I was prepared to dislike it; I had heard from some people that it was overrated, that it won its Oscars for the effects, and that the analogy to present day Earthling racism, genocide, and war profiteering was so heavy handed that viewers should wear helmets.

Those people are assholes. I have seldom seen such tight writing in an effects-laden blockbuster in my life. It was -- is -- epic, in every integral sense of the word. It's the story of becoming the man you were born to be, of leading a people to victory -- a planet to victory -- with nothing but guts and faith to guide you. Shit, if that ain't cinema I don't want to watch what is.

It's beautiful. The ecology feels like a real ecology, like it all could have evolved together. The Na'vi, the blue people on the posters, their skin is even blue realistically! Everything on this planet glows with phosphorescents, so of course the intelligent species does too.

Some of the signposting is obvious, but I would not say that it is too obvious. After years of avid movie-watching, I can tell where I'm being led, and I personally don't mind that most of the time. I did not mind it here; it's just normal signposting. Of course Jake becomes a Big Bad Archeopteryx rider. Duh. The clans have to be united under a common symbol, and there he is. Boom. It's not beating the viewer over the head to tell them beforehand, "Hey, dude, there's this old symbol of a badass archeopteryx rider uniting all the clans in time of need. It's sweet, right?" That's actually called good writing.

But that isn't the themestick I heard Avatar was beating people with. That themestick was the Bad White People Destroying Good Natives And Good Nature Because They Are Bad allegory. Now, to start with, that's not just some allegory that's tacked onto the screenplay in order for some producer to feel good about himself. It's not an unnecessary twist of the core themes like the Bush critique built into the V for Vendetta movie or the exhausting Christ imagery and evils-of-war panoramas in Children of Men.

This "high-handed theme" is not just a theme. It's the fucking plot. And that plot is not more over-the-top than, say, Fern Gully or The Lorax. Anyone who thinks they've been smacked in the face by it ought to be smacked in the face again, because they are just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

With that out of my system, let me talk about what I really thought was cool in this movie.

1. The effects. Hell, yes. The entire non-existent planet looked real. I had no idea the Na'vi would look so good, or so natural. It's amazing, and the visuals actually served to help bring me into the world-building, to make me care about the safety of this bizarre, beautiful world and what would happen to it. I nearly cried when Eywa took Grace. I flew with our main pair when they soared. It was beautiful.

2. The humanity of the bad guys. Yes, it's there, and not just in Trudy. The Colonel is a wretched son of a bitch -- which some people are, especially (I expect) when they've spent the better part of their lives fighting for their lives in awful terrain against hostile civilians. He's a character you see a lot in Vietnam War histories. That shit gets to you. So, good job on a believable villain. Now, Parker, the commander -- there is an interesting piece of work. He's driven by his job, by fears of disappointing the people in charge of him, by probably many things of which we are ignorant. He gives the orders to kill the Na'vi, and he gives them staunchly. But he can't watch the Home Tree burn with the Na'vi still inside it; he has the monitors turned off. He turns away rather than watch the bombing mission on the Tree of Souls. He does exactly his duty, and I get the idea he doesn't sleep very well at night or like himself when he looks in a mirror. That's fascinating; I wish we got more of that, but it would jeopardize the integrity of the story. And anyway, the story isn't about him.

3. Jake's identity crisis. This is what the story is about. Personally, I think questions of identity are at the heart of every good story, so I guess I'm biased. Jake's identity struggle is blatant, however, and relayed through his video log voice overs as well as through his actions. He says the life he lives as a human becomes the dream, and his Na'vi avatar's life is the real one. He's a double agent who defects. A John Smith who actually does go native. He's Dances With Wolves. It's simple, yet it becomes brilliant through Jake's integrity, fearlessness, and depth of attachment to the world of Pandora. His experience is what sells the world -- and the story -- to me. He is a true warrior, and I cannot fault that. I wasn't sure I'd like him until the scene when he first wakes up in his avatar's body and runs just because he can, because these legs still work. (I nearly cried then too.) A lesser story would have succeeded in sedating him.

4. And ultimately, I think that is why I love this film. It never holds back. In the words of Vincent from Gattaca, it doesn't save anything for the swim back. It runs straight forward, does not pull its punches, does not stop to make sure the audience is following every step, does not ask forgiveness or permission. It just runs -- and then flies -- straight to the inevitable conclusion to its well-developed premise. That is why it is not high-handed. This is not a story sitting around waiting for viewers to catch up; every scene adds something to the story, to the characters, to the world. Every character is stock. Let me repeat: every character is a stock role. The idealistic scientist. The greedy, violent soldier man. The double agent who goes native. The chief who refuses to listen. The jarhead next chief. Pocahontas. It's not that the story is original, it's that it is played with such depth of feeling, and every stereotype fleshed out into a real individual, that it becomes its own singular story despite all that. I love it. I will watch it again. I'll even pay money for it. :)

And damn but I wish I'd seen it in a theater.

30 November 2010

Paradise Regained!

I just discovered a link I posted in 2008 to a flickr account I forgot I had, in which I posted all my best photos of Jordan and Cyprus. When I switched from my Mac last year, I put everything from the hard drive that I wanted to keep -- including all of my photos -- on a flash drive. The flash drive was lost or stolen in Hawaii. I am so so glad to have these photos back! Thank you, blog!

Return of the Queen

I feel I need some kind of explanation for why I left this blog so many months ago and have now returned to it. I started This Car Is My Pants with Steve as part of a half-baked plan to win a year-long job blogging on a beach in Australia. (Literally, this was the job.) Obviously, we did not get to Australia, but the blog became something that we shared during our relationship, even though the updates were as sporadic as ever. I liked the thoughts I expressed there, and still do, and I feel that I grew during that time. However, now that we've broken up it seems wrong to continue writing in that blog. It was something we did together, not something that either of us could just pick up and continue separately. So here I am again, on my own personal blog, which is an appropriate analogy to the way I'm taking back my own life. I never realized how much of it I had given to the relationship, how much I wanted to let my self dissolve into that couple-closeness. I don't think I'll do that again -- well, at the very least next time I'll know better what I'm getting into and be prepared to watch myself against it. I'm developing a much better idea now of who it is that I really am, under all this bullshit and fear and the layers of social conditioning. I am really, really cool. Under all this, I am fearless and invulnerable and supremely loving. I worry a little about all the changes I'm putting myself through and whether some of them might not turn out for the worse, because I can't see all the effects at this single pinprick in time. I know they are though. I just ask the little bastard voice in my heart (the one that always tells the truth) and he cackles and says, "Yes, of course they are! Are you a moron?"

Well, yes, sometimes I am. I am starting to become okay with that. Of course I'm a moron. Would I ever be perfect? Someone once said that the quest for perfection in art was the greatest protection against creating good art. I am starting to really identify with that sentiment. I am amazing; why would I wish to become perfect? It's also helped me to stress out less at work. Last night I broke a whole tray full of dishes and nearly had a coronary. But thinking calmly, what is the point of that coronary? They were just dishes. We have plenty. Nothing is truly hurt.

I came back to this blog because I'm sick of starting new ones, thinking that each one will be my iconic blog, the one where I finally begin exploring deep truths and funny topics and get lots of followers and generally starting giving a shit about making a good blog. That blog will never happen. It certainly will not happen now, no matter what format or forum I use, because I am just not that dedicated to blogging. I hardly ever sit around and think, "Hey, that would make a great blog post!" It is just not in my head.

What is in my head is who I am, who I have been, who I can be in the future, where that person is going, what I can do now to help her get there, what frailties I exhibit that I've never given dignity to before, what strengths I have always taken for granted. I cannot honestly explore these in a blank slate, a brand-new blog with no past to reference, no frailties of its own, designed to cover up the moron I have been all my life. That's disingenuous. I came back to this blog, to Wandering Slade, because here I have been a moron. I have an even more moronic Livejournal that I am still ashamed of, which I will have to address at some point. But this blog is the height of the stupidity and foolishness that I can look at and recognize as me. This is where/when I started to grow. I feel comfortable here. So I came back, gave her a new paint job, and here we are.

Let's roll.

23 October 2010

Radical Honesty Dilemma

If I posted here, or in any public forum, everything I really think, or managed to convey how I see the world, I would be committed on the spot. Anybody who cared about me would advise me to seek help. But total honesty with myself -- for me, specifically -- involves a high degree of honesty with the people I care about, because I am so intimidated by their opinions. If I'm not willing to be vulnerable with them, then how can I be vulnerable ever? How could I respect myself if I just cowered in a corner dodging bad vibes from everyone on the dance floor and never standing up and courageously getting out there and doing my own thing. Opinions are just wordtrash and emotional residue, and they only have the power I grant them.

So does everything else. (Big thought. Another time.)

I'm babbling. This isn't really about opinions, it's about honesty and self-respect. Dishonesty makes me respect myself less -- so I guess I won't be lying about the product codes for bulk foods at the grocery store anymore. (Dammit.)

Tonight I've been wrestling with a related dilemma. (Well, all dilemmas are related. It is one mind, after all.) Part of me wants/needs to go forward, and the other part is very well-entrenched exactly where it is, keeping the other part from being able to go far. They are at constant war in my psyche and the energy expenditure is draining. The entrenched part, the me that wants to go nowhere at all, is miserable and always has been and feels at home in misery. The forward-part cannot fucking stand this and needs/wants to get the fuck out of that misery space. Entrenched part cannot abide that kind of change, unknown, risk, potential happiness and success, potential despair, etc. (Emphasis: It hates success and happiness, which it does not understand or trust.) It doesn't trust anything it doesn't already know/have and cannot make the leap of faith necessary to take big risks that the forward-self desires to take. The entrenched self just holds back the forward-self so that the forward-self's repeated attempts to leap to the other side of whatever chasm I'm facing always fall short and never succeed.

The center cannot hold. This aggression will not stand, man.

So, real question I'm really asking because I do not know the answer: How do you get your whole self on board for serious change? Not just getting the balls together to start a bookstore (which I want to do), but to overhaul my personality and the way I see the world. How do you un=entrench yourself?

01 March 2009

This blog is in my pants

You may wonder why I haven't updated what with everything I've been doing. (Specifically: I have moved to New Orleans to live with my master Steve, whom I love madly, and have gotten involved in the BDSM community, worked Bourbon St. at Mardi Gras, and am enjoying the hell out of life.)

The answer is that I have, but they're not here.

There was this great opportunity called The Best Job in the World, which was a caretaker/blogger position on a tropical Australian island. Their application window has now closed. However, since they were interested in multimedia blogging, Steve and I started a blog specifically to tie into our video submissions and show our prowess at that shit. The videos never got made, but the blog is still there. And it's starting to evolve into a more thoughtful, interesting place than this blog has been. I'm not done with this blog, but I suggest checking out what's going on there.

Here's the link to: This Car Is My Pants. (Once there were a bunch of reverential people seeking a famous Daoist* master for wisdom. They came to his hut, and upon entering discovered him stark naked inside. They freaked out a bit, and the master replied, "The world is my hut! This hut is my pants. What are you doing in my pants?" Gods love the Daoists.)

*Or a Taoist, if you so prefer.

13 December 2008


I'm writing this post because there are things I want to say, which is novel. Usually I only update it out of a vague sense of obligation. I'm giving up obligations.

A lot has happened since I last posted: much travel, some organic farm work in Georgia, a torrid and lovestruck affair conducted partly in a gorgeous beachside motel with a spectacular view of the sea (and the other part in Orlando, in the shadow of the tackiest, silliest, most brightly colored mouse on the planet), and now I'm staying in North Carolina for the holidays awaiting a plane ride to Zihuatanejo, Mexico,* where I plan to reside for awhile.

But all of that is completely beside the point.

The point of all my time so far has been figuring out what I want to do with my life: not how I wish to kill time making money till I eventually kick the bucket, but to what end I most desire to use the time I have. And figuring that out has been all about surrender.

I'd like to explain what the fuck I'm talking about here before you make the association with twelve-step programs and go read about something more interesting on Wikipedia.

The surrender I'm talking about is the crux of taking your life in your hands. It's drawing a line in the sand and saying, "No. I'm not doing this shit anymore. My life is fucked. I will not live like this." It's having the courage to give up control of your life to whatever the fuck runs the universe. (If you have an idea of what that is, great. It's not necessary, but it's helpful. Mine is a vision of the flow of the universe itself, as a big playful omniscient puppy.)

I started surrendering in October, when I was babysitting for some family friends. I'd known I had to, but I'd put it off. It scared the fuck out of me. I mean, it's not like I was doing a very good job of living the life I actually wanted, but hell, I could do better, right?

No. No, you can't. Nothing runs your life better than the thing that's been trying to run it your whole life anyway. The universe has a flow to it; that is, in fact, all it really is: everything that is, flowing. It's beautiful, and being a part of it fucking rocks.

Yeah, this sounds like some kind of Born-Again Christian testimonial of how much finding God changed my life. The reason is because sometimes Born-Agains aren't full of shit. Sometimes they've actually given themselves up to their God, and in that case they and I have more in common than I do with most of y'all who are likely to be reading this.

Absorb that fact for a moment.

I know you guys. There isn't a single one of you I think is reaching their potential. Not even those of you with your shit together. Getting your shit together is just baseline functionality in this world. Stopping there is like calling yourself literate because you finished The Cat in the Hat without help.

Some of your lives suck outright; some of you haven't admitted that to yourselves, but it's no less true. And you're thinking, "Yeah, the last thing I need is to lose the last shred of control I have over this trainwreck. Good advice. I'm sure it wouldn't leave me eating a bullet or taking every pill in this house."

There's only one sane reply to that:

Shut up, you fucking pussy. Your whining is not endearing. I know you are whining because I have been watching you keep a strangle-hold on that one shred of control for years** and your situation has not changed in all that time. You are still miserable. You are still having trouble talking yourself into hope. You still wish you were somewhere else, someone else, living some other life. Your joys are fleeting. You wake up every morning and have to convince yourself to get out of bed and start your day. You have no compelling answer to the question of why you don't just kill yourself now, except that you don't really want to, or maybe other people will miss you.

When are you going to start living? When do you stop just waiting to die?

When you stop doing the same stupid shit that hasn't worked so far. A "pull" door doesn't open no matter how many times you push on it. Your life will not change no matter how many times you repeat your patterns of behavior. Isn't it time for something new? Isn't it time you stopped being miserable?

Surrender still sounds scary. It sounds like giving up, like sinking further down into the abyss, like a standing army of every vague and nameless demon you fear might be waiting for you in the darkness of your own soul. Maybe like if you don't control your life, you won't even be you anymore, you won't even be real, you'll just disappear into the morass of horrors.

Don't worry, that's normal. The terror, I mean; not being dragged into the pits of hell by gap-toothed harpies and unborn fetuses wearing little hair ribbons. (Yes, I'm scared of fetuses in pink ribbons. Moving right along...)

The thing you might not have realized is that you pretty much have to be desperate to surrender. You have to finally understand that you can't fix your life yourself, that nothing you do is going to make this better, that there is no panacea for human misery. That's when you turn yourself over to something else, when you draw the line and say, "I'm yours. Make me better. Take whatever you want, kill me, just please get me out of this."

Understand that I'm talking about myself here too.

Surrender is unconditional. If you're to stop trying to run your life, you have to stop it on all counts, in all aspects, of your life: emotional, physical, romantic, financial, medical, professional, psychological, everything. This takes awhile; it's hard to break the habits of a lifetime. Be easy on yourself, but keep affirming your surrender. Say it any way you like; I think of it in sailing terms, as standing at the helm but letting the whipstaff swing however it pleases, because the idea of doing that still scares the fuck out of me. Let the universe, or whatever you envision running the universe, do the steering for you.

That means surrender is not just about letting go. It's about cultivating a new attentiveness to the world and how each thread of it touches you. After all, if someone else is steering your life, you have to learn how to take their direction. It's like relearning how to see your life, not as a series of difficult tasks to perform or hoops to jump through, but as a unified organism with a place in the larger organism of Everything. With time and attention, you learn to see the way the world moves, how it makes things happen in your life, and you learn to follow them. You become part of the flow instead of resisting it. It takes time and sometimes it's frustrating, but so is anything actually worth doing.

And it's worth it. God, it's worth every damn second I spent trying to think of a reason to wake up in the morning. I'd have given another decade of misery for this, it's so sweet. I'm still a neophyte at this game, and I can't believe it could get better, and somehow it just keeps doing it. I found true love, and discovered I didn't need it. I wanted somewhere to retreat to and get my bearings and really start living my life, and I have the choice between two (TWO!) beautiful, seaside, tropical, affordable, laid-back locales with good contacts in them to help me get oriented. I'm living on my own terms. I'm getting so close to discovering my ultimate desire I can taste it, and it involves becoming my own hero, self-sufficient, someone I respect above all others -- which itself means I need to draw up training plans so that I can learn to outrun a car, heal myself, and focus my brainpower and energy much more efficiently, among other things. I am having the time of my life, literally. Every week, I look back at where I was the week before and think, "Really? How could I have been such a benighted fool? Was that really only a few days ago? I'm so much different now, so much better. I wonder what I'll be like next week."

And these changes still scare me a little, but they are so wonderful most of the time I don't have space for fear amidst all the gratitude. I feel alive.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure and honesty, I've put up two posts that I found hanging around finished as drafts. They're backdated: look for them here and here. The latter may be helpful as a counterpoint to this post, since it's me explaining how I felt about my life in April and what I planned to do with it then. That was somewhere around when I started realizing that taking responsiblity for my life was going to be important. I'm glad I did.

*You remember the name of the town, don't you? I could use someone who knows how to get things.

**Yes, years. All of you. No, you are not exempt from this statement; if you wish to beg exception, email me.

17 October 2008

Radio Silence

At the beginning of this month, I declared radio silence. I emailed everybody in my contacts list and told them that I would not be speaking or writing to them in any form for the foreseeable future. Most of them had some prior warning, though not all. I completely forgot to post about it here.

And now, clearly, I am breaking it. I destroy my relationships with everyone I know and care about, and here I am breaking the ban? Why the hell would I do such a thing?

Because this journey thing is all about growing up, and part of growing up is learning how not to be a short-sighted self-absorbed little bitch. And part is learning to see when something has lived out its usefulness.

That's not to say I'll be emailing everybody anytime soon to say radio silence is officially lifted. That's not what's happening here at all. Just, I'm going to be posting here occasionally. Letting y'all know I'm still alive. I've got requests on that point that I feel the need to honor. So if you want to make sure I haven't been killed by a large white whale, this is the place to check. If you want to chat about what you did this afternoon, that's still going to have to wait awhile. This silence is still being very very useful to me. I can hear myself think and I like what I'm hearing.

So, that's it. I'm the only one who can post to this blog, and any posts you see mean "hey, there, I'm still around somewhere."