Posts Tagged ‘ life ’

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.

Ryan

So I spent Memorial Day weekend in the gorge at Sasquatch Music Festival. It was terrific. So much happened.

Let me tell you about Ryan.

After the Mumford and Sons show, my friends and I had agreed to simply wait in the flat area in front of the stage for everyone to clear out so that we could find one another. The tides of the crowd pushed me to the back, where I waited.

As the mob cleared, I scanned the stragglers. I spotted my group, and started weaving my way to them.

On the course I had chosen stood a man. Dressed in jeans and a hoodie, he was standing stock-still in the middle of the floor, obviously stoned.

As I passed, he called, “Excuse me!” Surprised, I turned, “Yeah?”

“High-five?”

“Okay,” I complied.

“Let me see your hand,” he said, catching my right hand and turning it over. “Ooookay,” I considered pulling away.

Holding my hand like a sinner begging a priest for forgiveness, he earnestly said, “My name is Ryan, and I have no idea where I am.”

I made a sympathetic comment as, still clasping my hand, he continued, “I was with friends, but they left me, and I have no idea where to look for them.”

“No idea like, space, or time, or what?” I asked, jokingly. He just stared at me blankly.

“I’m looking for my friends, too,” I continued, realizing he was too spaced out to understand my mocking. “I think I just spotted them, but if you head uphill I’m sure your friends will find you. It’s a high traffic area. I’m going to go now.”

“Okay,” he said, “Let’s hug it out.”

Since I had already hugged some strangers that weekend, and he really looked like he needed it, I complied. “Ohhhhh,” he sighed, “You’re the best hugger ever.”

“Oooookay,” I pulled back quickly. “High-five again?” Ryan asked. I high fived him. “Give me your hand,” he said, and took it. He kissed my hand, said, “Thank you,” and tenderly, so tenderly, kissed my hand a second time.

I pulled my hand from his grasp, shouted good luck, and ran.

I charged into the circle where my friends stood at top speed, simultaneously whimpering and laughing.

There were no more stranger hugs that weekend.

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.

Things your Barista is Not.

It has come to my attention that the general public is not quite sure what is in my job description as a barista. To help you, I have compiled this list of Things that Your Barista is Not.

Latte art

Your Barista is Not a Psychic.

You, the customer, must tell me, the barista, what you want. Staring at me as you hold your money out is insufficient. So is telling your friend what you want as you walk into my cafe. Throwing your money on the counter and mumbling “the usual” will not get you what you want if we have never seen each other before.  Expecting me to read your mind will simply result in an awkward conversation and annoyance arising between us.

I might joke about how I went to wizarding school to learn latte art, but reading your mind just wasn’t a part of the training. Sorry. (Not really.)

Your Barista is Not Your Therapist.

Honestly, you can talk to me. We can joke around and be friends, and maybe even have real proper conversations every once in a while. But the moment I start to feel like your therapist is the moment I tune you out, and if it’s ongoing I will probably complain about you later to my fellow coffee people (who are also not your therapist.) I understand if you’re unhappy because of a death in the family, a failing marriage, an argument, or whatever, but really, I don’t get paid enough to be your therapist. Let the coffee be your therapy.

Your Coffee Shop is Not a Dating Service.

Any barista who’s been playing the game for a while can sense the stench of desperation from across the cafe. Feeble attempts like five dollar bill hearts as a tip, “We should text sometime,” or using Harry Potter as a point of mutual interest– all true stories– These might be fine strategies in a normal context (not that I recommend giving five dollar bill hearts to anyone ever,) but in the cafe context they’re just pathetic and inappropriate.

When I’m at work, I’m not on the prowl. That’s all. My job might be more fun than yours, but I’m still getting paid minimum wage plus tips to even talk to you right now, and if you’re the kind of person who’s going to hit on your baristas, I’d never talk to you outside of when I’m getting paid. Please keep that in mind.

Myself, when/if I find you, a customer, an interesting enough person that I want to spend time with you in a normal, outside-of-work context, I will let you know.

Your Barista IS a Fellow Human Being.

As a fellow human being, your baristas deserve the simple courtesy of eye contact and a greeting. I don’t demand conversation, friendliness, joking, or whatever. But it is not that difficult for you to be moderately polite, and it improves my day immensely.

And if you tip, well, now we’re friends.

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.

Feed Me: An Expose

Being human, I suffer from an unfortunate condition which forces me to eat food multiple times daily in order to maintain my status as a living person. Being lazy and easily distracted, I often neglect eating in favor of more fun activities like reading a book, playing outside, or the Internet. As much as I like food, its allure fades next to the seductive glow of a story I don’t know. Eating has just never been a top priority for me.

It really should be.

When I neglect eating food for too long, I turn into a clumsy, angry monster.

So for your consideration, here are some of the terrible things that happen when I get too hungry. (Also known as Reasons to Feed Me.)

Reason #1: The Anger

When I get too hungry, I get angry. I’m not talking about petty annoyance or pissy whining. I’m talking She-Hulk status here.

The smallest, dumbest things will set me off. That person looked at me weird! What an asshole. Oh, that guy has an ugly beard? I hope his teeth fall out. I dropped my spoon? The spoon is out to get me. That spoon is such a jerk.

Over time I have learned to control the She-Hulk in my heart, but let’s just say that Hangry (hungry/angry) me is not at all like fun, well-fed me.

Hangry Bethany

Reason #2: The Clumsiness

In real life, when I’m fed, hydrated, and caffeinated, I’m a relatively adept person. On a good day I might even be kid of Spiderman-esque, dancing around, catching falling things, and twirling steaming pitchers like there’s no tomorrow, because tomorrow I’ll probably not be especially awesome, but I at least probably won’t break anything.

But as soon as I get too hungry, my body begins to rebel, and I’m as clumsy as I was at age 14 right after a growth spurt. My limbs betray me with their length. My elbows fling around with unintentional force, and I trip on my own feet as if I’m wearing shoes three sizes too big.

I’m not a short woman– I imagine the sight of me accidentally and clownishly flopping around is hilarious. Indeed, I would find it hilarious myself if not for the Anger.

Clumsy Bethany

Reason #3: The Rollercoaster

As any of my family will tell you (all too enthusiastically,) when I was in the throes of puberty, every day was a wild ride of emotion.  Since I hate rollercoasters, it sucked.

I was an unwilling passenger in the front cart of this wild fluctuation from joy to anger to sorrow, always within hours and sometimes within minutes of one another– unpredictable, and just as un-fun for me as for my family.

When I get too hungry, not only does my body feel like I’ve been warped back to the most awkward phase of life, but my emotions do the same. They start to destabilize, and what is normally a nice scenic train ride can suddenly derail in a train wreck of Emotion. If I’ve made good decisions (like drinking water) and I’m lucky, I’ll just hang out on the Anger track, because even though it’s a Hulk-like anger, at least it stays angry instead of bouncing around from laughter to tears.

Emotional Bethany

So basically, to sum up and conclude, if I ever seem angry, clumsy, emotional, or any combination thereof, you have two options that will result in you still wanting to be friends with me; Feed me, or run away. Quickly.

Things I learned in 2012.

When I was drafting this blog, I was laughing internally because in comparison, the one I wrote for 2011 was so short. It amuses me that 2011 felt like I grew so much, but 2012 was so much more.

So because this list is so long, I’m going to subdivide it into months.

January

  • Saying goodbye isn’t the hardest thing– living without is.
  • Moving to the Willamette valley in January is a terrible idea. It’s the crappiest weather of the year.

Feburary

  • Crappy jobs still pay rent.
  • Rich people aren’t good tippers. Actually, rich people are the worst tippers.
  • Getting thoroughly lost can be the best way to learn about a city’s geography.

March

  • Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to tune out.
  • If you’re willing to be surprised, a good friend can come from anywhere.

April

  • Unemployment is only scary when it stops feeling like a vacation.
  • Twenty is a surprisingly bummer age to turn. Suddenly adulthood feels like a burden

May

  • Aim high, be prepared to score low, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

June

  • Summer in Portland is perfect. 
  • Living in a main street in Portland during the summer… Not so much.

July

  • Nothing is certain, not even your life.
  • Getting prodded by medical folk gets easier the more it happens. Same with throwing up.
  • Dulaudid is one hell of a drug.
  • Recovery is the hardest part– waiting and wanting to be back to normal, but still sick.
  • In spite of the soap opera-y parts, Friends is an awesome show.
  • Staying hydrated is so much more important than I ever thought. Drink water, people!

August

  • Bicycling through Portland at night in the summer is amazing.
  • Doctor Who is one of the best TV shows of ALL TIME.
  • Life goes back to normal really easily, even when you’re changed forever and there’s constant turmoil in your brain.

September

  • Empathy is not a strong trait of mine, except where my sisters are concerned.
  • Every wedding should have dancing. (and dancers.)

October

  • Important decisions can be delayed.
  • I’m freaking awesome at parallel parking.

November

  • People who skype in coffee shops make me nervous.
  • Shutting up and listening is important.

December

  • Feeling rich is still a major fault of mine.
  • Handmade Christmas presents are the best!
  • Distance hasn’t made me love Central Oregon and my people there any less, and time hasn’t made me miss them any less.
  • Even though 2012 was a really tough year, it was a really good year– and it was really important.

And yeah… Fart jokes are still funny.

With that said, I’m really looking forward to what 2013 will hold. I’m making plans to intentionally make it the best year ever.

Cheers!

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