Tag: rant

Guiding Principles

My dad keeps asking if I’m done with my book yet. I tell him I’m just trying to make sure I write every day. 1,000 words a day for a year is 365,000 words to choose from. He tells me that if I write them in chronological order with a plot, I’d have a novel.

Right…

I’ve been thinking about rules. Do I have rules that I follow in my life? Besides eat when hungry, work when scheduled, brush these ugly teeth, try to quit smoking, feed the dog, put gas in the car, sleep for around 7 hours a day, talk to strangers when I enter a room – oh wait, is that last one a rule?

Taking to strangers… I do that. Sometimes. When I have to. When I’m forcing myself to stifle the anxiety welling up in the pit if my stomach and there isn’t a drink or snack handy. When I’m not in the smoking section. Look cool… That’s a rule. Look like I don’t have a care in the world while also looking like I have very important decisions to make. Oscillate between scowling and laughing at the absurdity of existence, finding serenity in the fact that meaning only exists because people exist, and damn aren’t I deep?

No. These aren’t rules. They’re compulsions, just as is my compulsion to define the rules of this game. You wouldn’t know it to look at me – well, maybe you would now that I stopped cutting my hair and don’t dress like I’m trying to sell you something – but I studied philosophy. I searched far and wide for answers to the big questions, and I came away disillusioned. There are no answers. Rather, the answer depends upon the seeker. We piece things together. We convince ourselves. We become righteous. We take our stances against those we know in our hearts to be just plain wrong. We filter the world, believing that our filters are the best filters. If they weren’t, we obviously would have chosen different filters because we’re all so goddamn smart.

This isn’t what I meant to write. What was I saying?

Rules.

Okay. Rules. And tattoos.

Well, no. Tattoos, yes. Rules, though… I can’t get to making rules until I have some guiding principles.

You’ll know that I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I don’t have to wander down any more blind alleys to get the rest of this on paper (on screen?). The ink I want, these first two that I’ll leave here, they’re attempts at lassoing in and keeping a tighter rein on my capricious nature.

1. Neither Above Nor Below

This is a reminder to be humble, yet confident. I have trouble with both. I have a tendency to simultaneously believe that I’m too good for things and not good enough. I want to believe that I’m too good to do menial labor. I latch onto the myth that I can do or be anyone and anything that I want to be, but I’m too good for all that hard work it takes to get there. I also secretly believe that I’m not good enough. That I deserve to work shit jobs as punishment for my laziness. I’m overweight, so I don’t deserve love. I’m in my 30s and haven’t yet published anything of note, so I don’t deserve the opportunity to have anything I say taken seriously.

All of that is bullshit. Absolute and utter bullshit, and it’s easy to see how ridiculous it is when it’s all written out – and it isn’t a complete list, by the way. These are just the things that come to mind as I sit here puffing on nicotine because I’m both too good to need to quit smoking and too undeserving of a life free of it. It’s easy to see it. Even as I live it, I see it, but in the moment, I don’t feel the craziness in it. I feel like I always feel. Hungry or horny or bored or content or excited or restless or or or… I need a reminder. I need something staring me in the face day in and day out. Something telling me, “Be cool, dummy.”

2. Breathe

My favorite thing about naming this principle is that the people just skimming through this rant are going to miss the meaning completely, and that is the whole point. Sort of.

Sure, it’s a reminder to breathe. It’s a reminder to think slowly, as per Daniel Kahneman‘s research. Take a breath before I make my decisions. Think things through.

But it’s also an exercise in picturing the universe as a single entity.

Do it with me now. Inhale. Hold it. And exhale. You just changed the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, changed the way our planet interacts with space, how much radiation the planet absorbs, how much heat we take out of the vacuum, affecting every other particle in the universe in one big ripple into infinity. This is a like chaos theory, if you’re familiar. The butterfly effect. A butterfly flaps its wings in Florida, and Siberia explodes. Something like that.

Every action has a consequence. Every. Single. One. As involuntary as they may be, you’re changing the world just by existing. Now, imagine what you can change consciously. Every moment is a decision to continue existing. Every second I sit here smoking this cigarette is a decision to give up precious minutes of my life, to risk cancer, heart disease, ostracization from the pack. To smell like smoke when I speak to the next person I see. To make me curse every flight of stairs because I can’t fucking breathe.

It’s a lot to think about. It’s every interaction with another human being. How you’re changed and how you change them. Just by witnessing one another’s existence. Are you smiling when you face them? Do you grimace? Are you angry or sad or happy or excited? Every one of those creates a reaction in the other, affecting how you both greet the next person, and then the next and the next and the next. You want to pretend that you know who you are, but who you are is changing constantly, and you don’t even know how. You can’t fathom it. You’re at the mercy of the whims of fate, as they say, and you’ll never get away from it. But you can maybe choose how to deal with it. If you remember to Breathe.

And so on

These principles are nothing new. Nothing unfamiliar. Nothing that should take any time at all to consider, accept, and say, “Duh, dude. Where the hell you been?” But… When I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, my dad told me that I’m slow on the uptake. Once I get it, though, I got it. I just gotta get it.

I think I’m getting it.

I’ll let you know when I got it.

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May Eight Nineteen

I’m doing it. I’m doing the work. I’m writing when I don’t want to write. I’m not saying what I want to say because I haven’t worked out what I want to say yet – let’s ignore the fact that I’ll only figure out what I want to say by actually saying it –

Fuck. Is that what I’m supposed to be doing here? Maybe I’m supposed to just keep writing stream of consciousness until it pops right out of my head. That’s how it works, right? You tickle the muse when it isn’t paying attention, and its laugh floods that empty queue in your head? Is that it? What the hell is the muse, anyway? I get this idea, and I get excited, and I rush to put it all down, but it’s just a fucking jumble. It’s just a fucking kernel of something, and there’s all this extra shit I have to go through to get it to function as an actual story. And then I get to work, because I’m still excited, and damn if it doesn’t feel good to be doing something I love to do. And then…

BAM! Dead end. A fucking wall out of nowhere, and it’s like… What now? This character isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. This story isn’t going where I thought it was going. So I start digging, because that’s what you do when you hit a wall, right? You dig a hole? And then I’m deep in this pit, and I realize, “You idiot, you were supposed to climb the fucking wall, not tunnel underneath!” So I start climbing… Well, fuck me if I don’t have to climb twice as far now that I’m in a fucking hole. But okay. fine. I did this to myself.

So I work and I work to get back to where I was so I can climb this fucking wall, right? I work and I work and I finally get back to solid ground, but wait… what the fuck? I’m in a completely different place now. None of this maps onto what I had laid out before. The wall is gone, and maybe that’s okay, but no… No, I wanted that wall. I miss that wall. I knew every fucking brick of that wall. Every pit in the mortar. Where’s my fucking wall?

I don’t know what else to say. I’ve done this process over and over and over again. Nine different stories all stacked up and waiting. All those walls I should have climbed but somehow managed to tunnel my way into alternate fucking universes that now have nothing to do with that first little nugget. I just wanted to write a story about a fucking robot, man. But what about everything that came before that fucking robot, man? I wanted to talk about my goddamn dog, but what about everything leading up to adopting my goddamn dog? What about all the other pets I’ve owned that informs how I treat the current one?

My father calls this “sequencing.” He tells me I come by it honestly – Hey, I know! Maybe I should write about his issues with sequencing as a way to understand my own! But where do I start? Where do I end it? The story isn’t over yet; the old man’s still kicking. How do I resolve anything? And is that what it takes for me to finish a fucking thought? The end of a fucking life? And is it his end or mine that I’m waiting on? Do I need to just write and write and write until all of my characters die of old age, or maybe I kill them so they’ll leave me the fuck alone?

GAH! This is the work. I fucking hate the work. I’m lazy. I’m too old to worry about any of this shit anymore. I should just give up and go live my life, only I’ve tried that over and over, too, and I keep ending up right back in this fucking chair. I keep forsaking everything and everyone because nothing matters like this matters – And I STILL can’t seem to get my shit together!

So I’m doing the work. I’m writing when I don’t want to be writing. I’d rather be watching tv and eating ice cream and jerking off and pretending that my life is a series of other people’s mistakes and I’ll never be the one to blame for anything at all and and and and…

And to you… You reading this, you’re making me feel guilty. One of two things will come from you reading this:

1- You’ll pity me. Maybe that pity will make you feel better about your own plight, and maybe I should be grateful that at least something comes form my torment. Well, fuck you. I don’t want your pity. Unless it’s in the form of cash. I’ll take cash. But if it’s just an encouraging word or that you can now sleep better knowing that someone’s got it worse than you… Fuck. You.

2- I’ll infect you. My angst and restlessness will follow you. It will burrow into your brain and make you question just what the hell you’re doing with your own time. Shouldn’t you be doing work, too? Shouldn’t you be wrestling with yourself? You took a break to read this, and now you should feel as guilty as I feel for wasting all these precious minutes spent writing this when I should be trying to figure out how to connect the coming era of neural implants to zombies in a western motif.

… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t yell at you. Could you tell I was yelling? I’m ranting and raving and yelling and calling you out on my own bullshit. I shouldn’t assume that I know how you’ll react. I shouldn’t assume that there are only two possibilities. But, I mean, c’mon. What other possibilities are there?

No, really. Comment and tell me.