Archive for the ‘ Thoughts ’ Category

Living vs. Vicariously

Before I start making points, I’d like to make one thing absolutely clear: I’m writing about this topic because it’s something I’m working on being better at, not because I have anything figured out and want to sit up on my high horse coaching you peasants how to live.

Good? Good.

I write a few weeks ago about how I seem to have a certain quota of input that I can handle before I cross the line from inspiration to discouragement.

In that post, I make the point that spending too much time online leads to me never creating things.

I’ve been spending a lot of time plugged in lately, and while I wouldn’t describe my creativity as at an all-time low, it’s definitely suffering.

And the lack of productivity frustrates me, so I look to the internet for inspiration, still finding none, perpetuating the loop.

However, I find that as soon as I get offline my brain wakes back up. It may take a few hours, but the longer I spend unplugged the more I find I have things to say (that aren’t just the petulant whining that I catch myself defaulting to after a particularly un-creative spell.)

When I unplug, I’m more observant. I remember more. I glean more meaning from the books I’m reading when I’m not constantly interrupting myself to check Facebook or Tumblr.

I always get so angry at people who interrupt me while I’m reading, and yet I interrupt myself all the time. It’s stupid.

The longer I stay unplugged, the more opinions I have, and the better my reasons grow for having them. I find myself more grateful for the little things in life, and I spend less time feeling sorry for myself because I’m not currently travelling or having an adventure.

Unplugging reminds me to live Right Now.

The great thing is that the best adventures I’ve had are the ones which never made it onto the Internet because we were all living too much to bother documenting the moments.

I think that’s what it boils down to– living in the moment instead of living vicariously.

I can spend all the time in the world researching and planning for travel, but unless I get offline and actually go somewhere, it’s useless.

Vicarious living only gets you so far, and if you’re me, it only gets you bummed out.

Responsibility

As I walked upstairs to my apartment just now, I overheard my downstairs neighbor having a conversation with his daughter, who’s probably seven or eight.

He was talking about how there’s always a trade-off between work and family, because as much as he wants to spend more time with her, he has to bring an income into the household.

It made my heart absolutely ache, because I remember having that same conversation with my father (and my mother) so many times.

I don’t think I quite understood, not as a kid anyway. My parents did a great job putting it into concrete terms, but actually grasping the way money and time and responsibility work didn’t start to sink in until I was probably eleven or twelve.

Right now I’m at an extraordinarily luxurious phase of life. I don’t work so much that I can’t have fun, and I’m responsible for exactly one person; me.

The only times I actually get worried about money is when I know I’ve been spending irresponsibly– alcohol is more expensive than I realized– but in reality, the levels of responsibility required of me are extraordinarily low.

Show up for work on time. Get enough sleep. Eat enough, and eat well. Drink water, and when drinking alcohol drink in moderation. Spend time with good friends, and don’t waste time on draining people. Do well in school.

Those are basically the only things I have to think about regularly.

Either I’m irresponsible or I’m lucky. Very, very lucky.

I suppose if I get into it, I could think of more things that I could be worried about on a daily basis, but if I do I usually end up curled in the fetal position cradling a book and my teddy bear to forget.

I’m not irresponsible. I just manage my low-spectrum levels of responsibility well, because responsibility is, like everything else, a spectrum.

My downstairs neighbor seems to be teaching this principal to his daughter in a sane and sensible fashion. Here’s hoping.

Gratitude

I love to complain.

As a human being, I think this is a pretty common condition.

Since I don’t want turn into a sour person as I age, I’ve been working on complaining less, and telling funny stories more. But to convert a whiny complaint into a funny story requires a combination of perspective and time.

Even on my worst days, my life is good. In perspective, I have nothing to complain about, even if work was irritating, I got rained on, had no food to eat, fell off my bike, and got scratched by a cat.

Perspective is a weird thing. It only really works if you combine it with gratitude.

What point is it to acknowledge that other people have it so much worse than you if you can’t be grateful for the things that are better about your life?

(“Oh, I know there are people who have to walk five miles a day for drinking water, but this is AMERICA and I shouldn’t have to take a cold shower, like, EVER.”)

For the last several weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed at how incredibly lucky I am. This season of life is amazing. It has its ups and downs, like any season of life, but really, who am I to complain?

I live in an incredible city, have amazing jobs, co-workers, friends, and family. Every day, my life could be so much worse, and it isn’t.

That’s all, really. I’m grateful for my life and the people who are a part of it.

Here’s a cool photo of Portland for you.

Sunset on Hawthorne.

Sunset on Hawthorne.

Starbucks

I feel like I need to clarify my opinions about Starbucks, since I’ve had two people in the last two weeks say something along the lines of “Will you hate me if I get a job at Starbucks?”

The answer to that question is a resounding no.

Of course not!

I will feel very sorry for you, though, for a lot of reasons.

Starbucks has a massive menu that you have to memorize.

Starbucks customers don’t know what the heck they want out of life or their coffee, so they take forever to order and make ridiculous demands.

Starbucks is the McDonalds of the specialty beverage world.

So heck no I won’t hate you for working at ‘bucks any more than I’d hate you for working at McD’s, or Burger King, or any other fast food joint. I’ll make fun of you, obviously. But I probably do that anyway.

I don’t hate Starbucks any more than I hate the diner that gave me a terrible cup of coffee a few weeks ago.

I think their products are bad. I think their customer service makes my life as a real barista much more difficult (the whole “you can have anything you can imagine because you’re always right” attitude is really awful to deal with.)

But I don’t waste my energy hating a corporation. I choose not to patronize them because their product is no good.

But no hate.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I feel about Starbucks.

Why I love Cormac McCarthy

Full disclosure: Cormac McCarthy is an author I put off reading for a very, very long time.

I first heard of him when I was, I don’t know, 15 or 16– high school aged. I never heard anything bad about him– indeed, he is one of the authors that one of my good friends has always recommended to me.

But it took me many years to actually get around to him.

I’m so incredibly glad that I finally did.

A few weeks ago, on a whim, I bought The Road at the bookstore which adjoins one of my coffee shops.

When I buy a new book, I usually keep my expectations low. That way I’m rarely disappointed.

For the first few pages, McCarthy’s stylistic usage of punctuation (a.k.a. lack thereof) gave me a twitch. His disuse of punctuation is unorthodox, and since I’m kind of a grammar nerd it irked me.

But the story! The descriptions! The pictures he was painting with such brevity!

I soon got over the stylized punctuation, instead reading it like poetry.

And oh, how have I fallen in love.

I’m amazed at his mastery of the English language. Somehow, with so few words, he evokes such powerful emotion, and such vivid pictures.

When I’m reading one of Cormac McCarthy’s books, I feel like I’m a guest in his brain, following each thought from its birth to its conclusion, and tracking and understanding the entire journey. His books don’t feel like books normally do to me– they really do feel like a journey.

I’ve complained before about how I burn through books, and even though The Road was a 4 hour book for me, it was a very powerful 4 hours.

I love Cormac McCarthy because he somehow accomplishes everything I strive to accomplish as a writer while using fewer words than seem possible, but he never feels like he’s skimping words. I feel like if I were to sit and talk with him, he would speak exactly how he writes.

I love Cormac McCarthy because he’s better than I’ll ever be, but not in a way that discourages me.

I just love Cormac McCarthy, guys.

My Relationship with Fitness, Revisited

About a year ago, I wrote a blog about how I had decided that it was time and I was going to get fit.

Well, let’s just say it didn’t happen.

To be fair to myself, I’ve had some setbacks, and a lot of excuses. But today as I’ve been mulling over it, I realized my biggest roadblock with fitness is fear and shame.

I’m ashamed that I am not capable of the things I feel like I should be able to do, and I’m afraid of experiencing the self-shaming when I fail. I hate that when the sun is shining I still can’t run more than a couple of miles, so I’m really going to get in shape this time because I’ve decided to make this summer the best one ever.

I hesitate to even write this post, because last time I wrote about fitness it didn’t help keep me on track like I intended.

But I’m hoping that airing my roadblocks will help me stay committed this time. I’ve been running, which is a new thing for me, but there are at least three 5ks I’m going to do this summer.

So many people I know talk about how great running feels, and unfortunately I’m not at that point just yet. During a given run, there will be moments where I’m like “THIS IS AWESOME,” but really, to keep going I have to play games with myself. My favorite is “Oh shit there’s a zombie,” so that’s how I get my sprints in anyway.

I don’t work out because it feels good. Working out feels bad and I don’t like it.

But I am, this time, learning that it’s worth it.

Feeling bad for half an hour is completely worth it to feel good for the rest of the day.

That’s all.

Inspiration vs. Discouragement.

Lately I’ve been re-reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. I figured it’s about time, since I haven’t gone galavanting around the galaxy with Arthur and Ford since high school.

Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors. His way of looking at the world is so pessimistically original that it resonates with my very soul, and every carefully constructed concept is seasoned heavily with his very particular sense of humor.

I find his style very inspiring, and if I could be ten percent as brilliant, clever and funny as Douglas Adams I’d be totally happy with my life.

Whenever I’m exposing myself to something I find inspiring, however, whether it’s words or art or music or anything at all, I can only absorb and consume so much before I stop being inspired and start being discouraged.

It’s like I have a inspiration quota, and anything that overflows the inspiration tanks goes immediately into the discouragement tanks.

Through the first half of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I thought “Wow, this guy is brilliant, I should read all of his stuff.”

Slowly though as I’ve read more and more of his work, my thoughts have evolved from admiration and aspiration to that level of brilliance to “Douglas Adams is so much more awesome than I could ever hope to be. Why should I even try?”

That’s the point at which I put down the book and go do something else with my life.

Unfortunately though this is my relationship with so many things– Music and the Internet in particular. If I spend a short amount of time online looking at art and then get offline, I’m much more likely to then spend time creating things than if I stay and continue seeking inspiration. (Which is part of the reason I’ve been so bad about blogging regularly lately; I’ve been seeking inspiration on the internet which is almost always like chasing after the wind.)

The same thing also goes for my newly-renewed fitness goals. I have to very consciously set my goals small, because if I dream too big I’ll only end up being disappointed in myself. The story has to go “I’ll make it to the top of this hill,” or “I’ll just do a few more,” instead of “I’m going to run a marathon this summer,” or “I have to do fifty.”

I’m trying to learn how to recognize my inspiration quota so I spend more time creating and being and doing and less time wishing I were better at creating and being and doing.

That’s all.

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