Thinking on Thoughts

What are you thinking? It’s a simple question that we ask or are asked quite often and one that ironically isn’t thought after very much. Usually there’s an unspoken topic or focus to the question. We all know (hopefully) that our boss doesn’t care what we think of the political cycle or have even a passing curiosity as to our opinions on that mauve sweater he just bought. At least I hope you know that… Your boss is most likely asking because you said you had an idea about a project approach and then never told them what the idea was, or you sent a drunk text to the entire department. Hell, maybe you sent drunk opinions on everyone’s work on the latest project, which sounds hilarious but probably will get you fired. Don’t do that. The point is, in a workplace setting ‘what are you thinking’ means something pretty damn simple. Explain yourself, nowish. Using buzzwords may or may not earn points.

To add confusion to the mix, or at least to make life more interesting, when someone close to you asks this question it doesn’t necessarily mean explain. Sure, they could be confused as to why you ruined a perfectly good dinner by flipping the table. If you haven’t flipped a table lately, it’s possible this question is a bit more slippery. Every generic romance plot at some point has one person ask the other what they’re thinking, usually when there’s a stormy night or flickering fire to be stared into broodingly. This, of course, is when some dark past is revealed, or we find out a redeeming quality that makes all of the dramatic wrongs up to this point in the movie okay (possibly charming). Normal life is usually lacking in the dramatic backdrop, but the question can still be asked with this in mind.

Just remember folks, if you’ve got the perfect setting and someone asks what you’re thinking, it’s okay to give a dramatic sigh, turn, and tell them they wouldn’t understand. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of humor. Note that I don’t advocate this if you’ve fucked up, irritated someone, or are talking with someone who carries a pool que up their ass. Then answer after having your made for TV drama movie moment. For now the answer will have to be given with words, but someday to everyone’s dismay and horror there will be a way to share thoughts via some kind of data dump. That’s what people want sometimes when asking what you’re thinking – a picture of what is happening in your head right at that moment.

Now I can’t speak for anyone else but trying to explain all of the things in my head is hard. Even when my mind is only idling, there is a lot happening that I don’t have any good way of putting words to. That isn’t to say that there aren’t words – just that the ones I manage to find feel clumsy and are irritatingly inadequate so far as I can tell. There’s no good way to tell someone you’re staying at the window because of a sound you heard, which you suspect was a large bug bouncing off of the glass. Of course, now you’re thinking about this bug, wondering if it was a fly, how fast it was going, and whether bugs can ever learn how to detect and avoid glass. Also, how many bugs hit an average window a day? Another one just did…. Is the sound they make more dependent upon speed or mass? How come I never seem to be looking when this happens?

See? All of that because of one sound. There’s one tab on my mental browser and there are always a minimum of five off-topic tabs up at any given point. Plus, since it’s impossible to communicate all of the thoughts as quickly as they come up, you end up caught in a loop until the CPU overloads and quits because that’s a lot of talking. Not to mention the fact that when someone asks what you’re thinking they usually want to know about things of an order of magnitude more important than kamikaze flies.

It would be nice to be able to visit other people’s minds just to see how they think. Are things like trees dropping their leaves because they’re feeling unappreciated and depressed topics that anyone else ruminates over? Has anyone tried to work out why hot chocolate is magic, or what it is about leaf piles that sound amazing but leave you wanting? Most importantly, is there anyone here you have not yet had an individual experience? Anyone who hasn’t had a moment of feeling or thinking ‘no one gets this’ or ‘am I the only one who ____’?

I ask because an overwhelming amount of the time, when I tell people what I am thinking – really tell them instead of just giving a superficial reply – the response is that I think too much. Part of me understands this, as I am clearly putting considerable thought into my thoughts even now, and there is quite a lot of time and energy that goes into thinking about things that have absolutely no use or practicality in my life. Another part of me wants to know what the hell else I am supposed to be doing. Stop using my brain? Don’t narrate all the squirrels that I see? That sounds awful, boring, and not actually possible. So here I am overthinking and knowing that everyone does this while simultaneously wondering if no one else thinks about things as much as I do because people keep saying I think too much.

That really boils the human experience down. We all feel as though we alone are experiencing something, even as we watch those around us go through the same world as us. There is no way that I can put this better than the poem by e. e. Cummings that sums up life and the solitary journey through it that we all share.



Can You Feel It In The Air?

It is that time of year again. Well, okay, so this particular time only comes once every four years. No, I’m not talking about leap year. Also, what the hell? That day happens in February, how are you surviving if you’re thinking we’re in a different year? That’s actually kind of impressive. No, it’s election season. The exciting one that means you can’t avoid political crap no matter where you go. Everyone wants to know if you’re going to vote Douchebag or TurdSandwhich, will hate you if you vote differently from them, and we all wonder why there are only two choices. Yes, we know there’s the third party but when’s the last time someone actually went with that, hmm? It’s the same as ordering a salad from Dominos. Technically it’s an option but if you go for it everyone is going to wonder what the hell you’re thinking because pizza.

What doesn’t get talked about so much during this time of year is the down ticket stuff. Mostly because it isn’t nearly as interesting as trying to make a new something-gate. This year there have been so many scandals and ‘campaign killers’ that you have to wonder why it took this long to get the undead into politics. Clearly they do very well there. And while everyone is really happy to talk about how TurdSandwich and Douchbag are hurting or helping those down ticket, no one seems to be stopping to actually look down ticket for the sake of actually seeing what their choices are or making informed decisions.

Why the hell is this occurring to me now? Great question people. Keep asking questions. You have the best questions, you know, I love questions. There’s one thing I love, it’s questions. Now I have… believe me I have questions.

Okay I couldn’t resist. We’re talking about this now because the early voting ballots have already been mailed out. People are voting now, have voted, and are going to be doing that whole democrazy thing from now until they announce the winner and subsequently that hell has frozen over for one reason or another. Which means this is the only chance I have for a soapbox. No, not a literal soapbox. That sounds slippery. Metaphorical, guys. A metaphorical soap box.

A lot of people apparently just vote straight down the ticket. Someone has the right color associated with their name? Cool. Guys, I thought you said you didn’t see color. What? The ballots aren’t color coded? Fuck. Okay. Well my meaning stands. Blindly voting for people because they say they’re with a party is really crazy. I can say I didn’t have brownies for breakfast and it’s just as true as what they’re saying. They were delicious brownies and party affiliation on ballots is just what the candidate wants beside their name. Don’t trust candidates who don’t eat brownies. So, don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like brownies, and assume all of the people you see on the ballot don’t like brownies. Look them up and make sure they aren’t just politely taking the dessert before throwing it away.

Ohhhh, but that takes time and effort and you don’t want to do that? Tough shit. This is the one thing you are asked to do for your country. This is literally it. Okay, so taxes exist. Stop ruining my melodrama. We don’t have compulsory service, so you don’t have to go give up years of your life for the place. Hell, they don’t even punish you if you don’t vote. However, it is the one responsibility that you have as a citizen. Sit down, look shit up, vote. Don’t shut up – talk. Talk about what you think and who you like or don’t like and why. Get multiple perspectives and really engage yourself in all of this rare insanity.

What’s that? Blah blah unfair you can be drafted? Yea, that’s true. Guess who decides if there’s a draft? The people that get elected by these votes you better be participating in.

Look, I get it. Voting isn’t sexy. It’s sitting and filling out a bubble, then choosing between another set of non-perfect choices to fill out another bubble. They even make you use a boring pen. I want to use a lime green pen, but nooooo. Black pens only, no doodling, and you can’t vote for two choices on one issue. The rules suck. The thing is that our votes really do matter. Sometimes the local stuff (you know, what we don’t actually bother voting on, or you don’t research because time) comes down to a few hundred people. Think about that. What if it comes down to just your facebook friends?

Wait. Shit guys. It’s… I have maybe 200 of you on my facebook. That means it could be down to you. We’re fucked. I need more brownies.

Bottom line is, if you can vote you need to. It’s your responsibility as a citizen. Also people who don’t vote don’t get laid. Just a thing I heard. Not saying it’s true, I’m just saying.

Dementors on My Mind

Depression is a curious monster. It is sitting on my chest as I type this, telling me that I should be curled in a little ball sobbing hysterically. The only reason I’m not doing that is because I don’t know why it’s telling me to go cry. This is also not an uncommon visitor in my life. One of the better known metaphors for depression is the Black Dog. To me dogs are happy creatures well suited to frolicking, snuggles, and never ending love. To say that depression is a dog is to miscategorize it in such a way that anyone seeking to understand it will think it joy.

The more accurate depiction  of depression for those in my generation – the Harry Potter generation – is that of Dementors. Both suck at your life’s energy, pulling the things you hold most dear from you and sapping all will to live. In each case it is only a herculean effort that can bring you back. Sadly, in the mundanely muggle world we don’t get to have patronuses. Computers and internet, yes. A patronus? Not so much.

So we’ve established that I’ve got a dementor on my ass. It wants nothing more than to feed on me and steal all happiness I possess until I am but a husk of a human. Now what? No magic, no panacea. Well one of the options is what I’m doing right now – writing it all out so that it doesn’t swirl around in my head and get crowded. Incidentally, if any wizards are somehow reading this please get me a pensive… Another option is getting out and seeing friends, essentially using my support network to keep from losing my mind.

Right now there are nasty little words being whispered to me from inside my own head. If you’ve somehow managed to never lie to yourself then I am more than a little impressed (and you have, by saying that you haven’t. Well done!). My mind will tell me that people I know and love hate me or wish I was out of their life, that I’m a drain on society and drag everyone around me down, or that no one actually likes me. Think about that for a second. Sure, it’s easy to tell yourself that it’s a lie when you hear those things once. Even the first ten or twenty times you can probably ignore it or shake it off. What about the hundredth? The millionth? Suddenly dismissing that self-abusive voice is harder, those fears are more valid, and the urge to check in with everyone to make sure you aren’t secretly a pariah seems pretty reasonable.

I figure I can’t be the only one who deals with this. Everyone has to have some kind of monster hiding in their head, the question is if they’ve worked out how to cohabitate. So go dust out the corner of your mind you don’t like to look out and figure out what’s in there. Make an adventure out of it, find your monster and take it out to a nice dinner. Or therapy if that’s your cup of tea. In the meantime the dementor and I need to get going; they’re playing our song and I don’t want to miss the dance.

This One’s for Roo

This morning I woke up to see one of my fellow Spoonies (Roo) had decided to be open about what he was going through. This is something many of us try at some point, and it can be both incredibly helpful and heartrendingly disappointing. Helpful, because so often people forget that we face each day with challenges that aren’t on the average person’s radars. Disappointing, because when opening up and being vulnerable there is little that says ‘I’m not really listening to your experience’ more than telling someone that they need to try this one new thing.

I’ll be frank, a lot of that is my bias. If one more person tells me to try acupuncture when learning I have chronic pain (and I mean right out of the gate) I may scream. Usually I manage to maintain a smile while telling them of course I fucking tried that, I’ve been living with this my whole life. Thank you for assuming my competence level is so low that I need someone who doesn’t know my name to tell me about a commonly known type of alternative medicine. Almost worse is what I saw my friend go through; friends and people that know him largely not acknowledging how hard right now is for him but instead telling him all of the things they think he should be trying and doing.

Think about that for a second. Imagine if you told your friends that you were having a lot of trouble with your partner and that you were doing specific things to try to fix stuff, but that it was still really hard right now. You don’t need them to tell you how to fix your relationship – you’re seeing a counselor together – but it would be nice to be able to talk about what you’re going through. Instead of listening and letting you vent, your friend tells you to hit the bars, or that you should be waking the person up to sex, adding another person to the relationship, swearing off of talking for a week, and switching to sports only when watching tv. Anyone else wanna dump lukewarm tea on their head? Just me? Okay, moving right along.

The timing is especially poignant as I myself have been having more trouble than usual with my depression lately. For me that means I wasn’t able to hide it, and I ended up breaking down in front of someone. I don’t like doing that. What I was met with shows a sharp contrast to Roo’s experience of reaching out – he was given fixes that, well intended or not, don’t show people are listening. I was given room to talk, cry hysterically until there weren’t more tears, and get everything out. They held me, asked questions that showed they were listening, and were clearly trying to understand where I was and what I needed.

To bring it back to the original inspiration; I have watched Roo struggle and push himself through more than most. We’ve helped each other through a lot and each time there is a setback I watch as he dusts himself off, reevaluates, and gets right back up. If I made that sound easy that’s because I don’t have the words for how hard it is. As far as I can tell there are gravity wells or some other very strange physics shenanigans at play on the ground around us, because you’re at least five times as heavy when you need to pick yourself up.

Part of me doesn’t want to put this post up and I can think of no shortage of excuses to hold it back. I haven’t edited it. There’s jumping around. Surely I need to re-read it later and see if it’s really true. The truth is that I’m scared. Being vulnerable around people is terrifying and it is so much easier to just not do it.

I’m going to end this one a little differently – with an ask. If you’re reading this, you have homework. The next time someone confides in you or reaches out, don’t fix it. Not until they start trying to. Just listen, work to understand what they’re going through. Make sure the person you’re talking to feels heard and empathize. You might be surprised at where it takes you.

This post is written in large part because of a wonderful support and friend in my life, Roo.

When a Date is a Dud

A few nights ago I went on a date. This is not exactly an uncommon occurrence for me in the past months. I go on a fair number of dates, and I’m really good at being a date. I’m also wonderful and fabulous at being modest. Ask anyone. On the rare chance that a date doesn’t go well, there’s usually a specific reason that I don’t plan on seeing the person again. Normally I even tell the person I’ve just seen why I don’t plan on seeing them again. Did I mention that I don’t like to beat around the bush? I don’t like to beat around the bush.

What was unusual about tonight was that I left not quite knowing what it was that hadn’t been right. Xander didn’t do a single thing wrong. He was definitely attractive – frankly I think the man could probably go right to being a trophy pool boy if he decided that working wasn’t for him. It wasn’t that he reminded me of my ex-husband, Justin, or that he said something that made me cringe. So what exactly made this date one that ended in a brief hug and a silent question of where my hour and a half went?

I don’t have any kind of answer. What? You thought that I was going to give you an answer to everything and just solve dating for you? If I was that good it sure as hell wouldn’t be on a free blog just hiding on the internet. That would be locked behind about three layers of pyramid scheme or ten payments of just $9,999.99. That way only the people who really have earned love can get it. You know, the ones who have won some kind of lottery. Because fairness. Until then I’m just fumbling around with everyone.

So what is it that sets a date going on the right or wrong track? Part of me thinks that there is a very bored deity in the sky watching and poking at settings to see what happens or if they can get some kind of interesting new outcome. Since that is highly likely but not a very satisfying answer, let’s look for another answer. Hmm… well, I know that humor factors in, but it isn’t the only thing. I have plenty of hilarious people in my life that I don’t want to date. I don’t have an answer or a graceful lead in to the next part here, but I think it will help to look at some of the characters you can run into as a young woman venturing into the dating world. (Don’t worry men – I’m sure at some point I’ll end up making fun of myself in some way.)

So, who exactly is it you’re liable to run into when running around and trying to find an interesting date? Well let’s take a look at the lineup.

First up are those such as Johnny Bravo. They’re dashing, handsome, and ready to wash anything and everything on that rock hard stomach. You know they have a rock hard stomach because they can’t wear shirts – it’s a medical condition guys, have some compassion. If I’m being honest I really like most of the Johnny Bravo types that I meet. They tend to be very honest about what they want, which I respect. We tend to underestimate these handsome hunks because sometimes they appear to think of nothing beyond the next workout, hot date, or game of Ultimate Frisbee – please don’t. Johnny Bravo and all those like him have secret depth and are capable of enormous compassion. Still waters run deep and all of that incredibly trite crap.

Next up on the line we have guys like Aladdin. Look, I like Aladdin. He’s a loveable ruffian that gets to live life without responsibilities or commitment. We’d all love to be this guy from time to time and not have to be the one who argues about how to continue the family line with the Sultan, or fend off Jafar. It’s fun to run away with Aladdin and see how life is in his world, but it just doesn’t last. You end up paying for the apples at the stall to save his hand, fueling up the magic carpet, and in the end Aladdin and Abu are going to wander off in search of more excitement when you have to get back to running the kingdom.

What about Prince Charming, I hear you say, there have to be some Prince Charmings! Well let’s talk about the guys who are most like Prince Charming. A fair number of people won’t even be able to tell you what movie this guy is in. That’s what an impression he makes. Prince Charming is a cutout – the guy is purposefully vague so that you can impose whatever you want onto him. There’s nothing wrong with a Prince Charming, because we all need one every once and a while. What’s hard is that this Prince Charming isn’t anyone’s right prince. This is a great fantastic guy, but just don’t settle for him because he happens to be, ya know, a prince.

Then there’s another prince. Humperdinck. Just the word is enough to send shivers down the spine. A Humperdinck is only concerned with what appears to be. Do you look like a power couple? Will marrying you let him take the throne and win over the people? So long as the answer to that is yes, the rest doesn’t really matter. Best case you’re just there to make this guy look good. Worst case you are going to be kidnapped and murdered just before your wedding night to set off a war with Guilder. They have it coming. This guy not only will miss your jokes, he won’t even care that he doesn’t realize how hilarious you are.

Alright. This is getting depressing. Where’s the happy? Oh there he is! Doug. I like Doug – he meets you and immediately loves you. Anywhere you need to go, he is going to follow you. Doug is going to hide under your house because he loves you. Truth time? Doug is a golden retriever that everyone wants to have. It’s okay, I want him too and I already have one four-legged love of my love.

So far everyone has been fairly cheerful. That’s about to change. Meet Mr. Dark and Mysterious. He’s tortured. There’s tragic backstory. You’ll have to earn his trust bit by bit and be patient as he bolts at each hint of affection, commitment, or intimacy. Be ready to listen to his music, which is going to feature lyrics such as ‘Darkness! No Parents! Continued Darkness!’ (Okay, I stole that from Batman in Lego Movie. Still fits). If you once broke your leg, this guy broke three of his legs. You had chicken pox? He just got over smallpox. No big deal.

I think six is a good number to stop at for now. Not because I’ve come up with all of the various types of men who you can run into while dating – that’s just crazy, there’s always going to be more fun new people to figure out – but because six is a good number. The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that none of what my date does should impact how my day goes. Good or bad, someone wanted to meet me because they figured out how great I am. I wanted to meet them because of how great they are. That’s pretty great. Here’s the word GREAT again (which looks really wrong to me now).