Tag Archive: boggling


Which means, naturally, that I am quite likely to be wrong.

 

It’s not about fear.  It’s not about fear at all – fear is just the elephant’s tail that feels like a snake.

 

It’s about trucks.  It’s about everything sudden, significant, and unexpected being a bit like being hit by a truck.

If you’re not used to it, you don’t expect it, it means something, and you don’t have time to brace for it, you’re going to react a bit like you’ve been hit by a truck.  And by you I mean we, of course.  Jumped-up monkeys of so many flavors you can never possibly taste them all.  And we’re all bad at sudden, significant, unexpected things.

 

We gape, and stammer, and it takes a tick or two for us to gather ourselves together and respond in anything like a way that makes any damn sense.  Ticks can be shorter or longer – the more often you’ve been hit by a truck, the better you’ll be at dealing with the fallout.  Some people even practice at being hit by trucks so they’ll always have the effective equivalent of expecting a truck.

But that requires being hit by a lot of trucks, on purpose.  Opportunity cost.  Some people get hit by a lot of trucks just because, which probably is quite an irritating thing.  They’re probably better at trucks than most, too.

 

The thing is, though, it’s still a truck.  And the truck makes all the smart bits up in the front run around in a panic, throw their hands up, run into each other, and squeal like five year old girls.  Oh, certainly, the lizards in the basement may well give them A Significant Look and get on with things.  But those smart bits, it will take them just a moment before they’re back at post and back on form, running along like they’d never screamed in their lives, coughing significantly and avoiding eye contact with one another.

 

So now the question is, why do they have to scream and run?  Or scream and freeze?  Or freeze and run, which is quite hard to do?  Why do we have to be trained to be good at being hit by trucks?  We can manage having sex pretty well on the first try (nobody said competently, but there’s usually comparatively little screaming and running around (for most people)), and that’s orders of magnitude more complicated!  Why are we so damn bad at it?  We see trucks every day.  Some of us drive or ride in trucks quite frequently.  So – why are we so very bad at trucks?

 

I’ll get back with you on that one when my metaphor machine isn’t quite so focused on trucks, thanks.  Because right now I’ve run into a double roundabout that seems to end up in Italy, and I don’t know how to get off.

(Much of this is recognizable to me, minimal prismatic action.  It is, essentially, the narrative thread that life “ought” to have, but so often doesn’t.  It’s the story I’m starting to tell myself, in a lot of ways, about who and what I am and what I want and what I am willing to do.  Assume some things have been scrambled, and also that I made up most of the actual events, because many things are easier to process if they are posed as fiction.)

 

Singing for Myself

 

“It’s like being hit by a truck,” I told her, pulling a drag of smoke deep into my lungs and exhaling, feeling melodramatic just putting it that way, even though it was the only simile I could find.  “I mean, that sounds stupid, but it’s true.  It’s just this noise, that doesn’t even process as sound, and then a flash of impact, and then you’re lying there on the ground, trying to move, trying to get up.  And it’s this horrible feeling of helplessness, because there’s something wrong, and you can’t make everything work quite right anymore.

You know, in a minute, it’s going to hurt like nothing else ever has, and the pain is going to be a wave that rolls you under it if you don’t hang on tight.  But you also know that if you could just get UP, make everything MOVE, that you’d be back in control, and that no pain would stop you.  But because there are whole sections of you not answering the call anymore, the pain rolls you under, drags you into it, leaves you washed up on the shoals of your own mind gasping for breath and praying not to get hit with another wave.  But the whole time, even under and inside the pain, the voice in your head is telling you just how MAD you’re going to be, when you can just. Get. UP.”

She had her head cocked on one side at me, smiling a little bit.  She waited for me to hit the end of the picture I was trying to paint for her, and took another drag off her own cigarette.  Slowly, slowly, she nodded.  “I know what you mean,” she said.  And she did.

 

So, here’s the thing about being me: I’m stubborn, and I cannot let something stand once I know it is standing dead in my way, if I have control over it.  The picture I was making was about a song, that hurt in a way I couldn’t even begin to process.  So, like all the other stories I tell myself about myself, this story is about love, and about getting the job done.

 

There was fire in the sky, and I chased it.  I ran gladly to meet it, knowing it had no thought or opinion of me, no thought or opinion at all, but I wanted to meet it, to see it at its strongest and most glorious, to stand in the middle of it and be alive.  So I chased the fire in the sky, and caught up to it, for a little while.

There’s a thing that I can never really decide whether I believe: that everything happens for a reason.  I know that my life is too full of coincidences for them to be just coincidences, but I also know that I’m a pattern-identifying primate working under a load of genetic sample distortion that’s pretty fucking epic.  But one thing in the last couple of weeks definitely happened for a reason, and it makes me happy that it did.

A few days ago, I was engaged in a series of conversations by text message that were surreal, sleep deprived, and quite entertaining about the oddnesses that one encounters in this or that county, as I was driving.  It was between 5 and 10 A.M., and I was on small roads, with almost no one else on them.  One of those conversations was lamenting that I had been all over a particular piece of parkland, hunting for the entrance, and could find everything, apparently, but the main gate.

I found out, last night, why I spent a few hours muttering in frustration to myself.  It was so I could chase fire in the sky, and know where I was going and about how to get there.

Because, see, here’s the thing: if there are roads, then I will drive on them.  Your polite sign about permits makes my problem with authority itch.  I will politely close gates behind me, and I will not damage the terrain I explore.  I will not litter.  I will not start uncontrolled fires.  I am a safe, intelligent person.  And so I have decided I am permitted to drive on your roads, because you have made them fit for my car.

And, frankly, because I care enough to do it and you don’t care enough to stop me.  Not really.  So I win, because I give more of a fuck about whether I do it than you do.

So I saw the storm, in all its rolling, lightning-lit and multi-splendored glory, from below the epicenter, listening to the wave of silence that rolled in before the wave of rain.  I sat on top of my car and laughed to myself, gleefully, watching the sky open up and rain hell down on the forest around me.

And somewhere in all that, I remembered being hit by a truck, and feeling parts of myself go weak and numb, refusing to respond to my commands and calls.  I remembered singing in their kitchen, cooking, happy.  I remembered singing because it meant I was happy, and so they’d know.

And I remembered when the only times I sang were because I was so happy it needed somewhere to go, some way out of me so I wouldn’t have to try to contain my joy at just being fiercely and amazingly alive.

There in the rain, sopping wet in the wind and dark, I sang because I remembered what it was like to overflow with joy, to have my self run over without fear or worry that it would be damaging, somehow, to anyone else.  I found how to sing for myself again, and I sang to the storm because it was sing or explode.

So I wandered because I was lost, but wandering lost would show me the way when I needed it.  And I found the self that overflows again, and is not afraid.  It’s probably just coincidence that I found that particular piece of myself again just in time for Pride weekend, right?

Mythology of self

We tell ourselves stories all the time, every day.  You’ve heard me talk about this before, and it’s a theme I come back to a lot, primarily because I spend a fair portion of my time asking myself what story someone is telling themselves about a particular set of facts, events, circumstances, whatever.  There are lots of stories to tell about any particular event, and the story that you tell yourself will materially and significantly change the way you look at the event, how you feel about it, how you feel about yourself and other people in relation to it.  The facts form a very, very low percentage of the actual opinion and emotional resonance that a human forms around any important event: most of what goes on in our heads is the story we are telling ourselves about what happened, what is happening, what will happen, what might happen.

That becomes even more pertinent, even more common, even more influential when we think about people instead of facts.  People are mutable and interpretable in a way that facts are not.  Though we spend a lot of brain power excusing or ignoring internal motivations, on some level we (as humans) are basically incapable of ignoring the fact that other humans’ internal motivations DO exist, in a theoretical sense.  So, based on the fact that it can only ever be a theoretical sense, we create theories of who they are, what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what they might or might not think or feel or do in regards to us and what we feel and think and do or do not do or think or feel.

How, then, do we reinterpret and recreate ourselves?  We are, from an internal perspective, a complex mix of both fact and perception, of concrete certainties and guesses.  When you ask someone why they did a very important, very emotionally loaded thing, they will often have a logical, rational, prepared explanation.  They have a story.  They will tell you their story about why they acted the way they did, what they were thinking, what they were feeling, and why all of that makes sense in the context of what was going on.

The problem with that (or at least, this is my theory today – ask me again tomorrow, it’ll probably be different) is that it’s bullshit.  It’s a story they’ve devised to explain to themselves why what they did was right, or why it made sense, or just why it was okay to do at the time.  It’s a construct, a fabrication, a creation designed to uphold their certainty that they do have reasons for doing things, and that they understand why they do things.  People, in general, devise their sense of self and identity from identifying common characteristics in the stories they tell themselves and other people about themselves, and then basing their future stories and behaviors on those characteristics.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of identity reinforcement.

Here’s the chink in that armor: ask someone why they engaged in an action that has no real resonance, that wasn’t important, that didn’t have any real meaning to them at the time.  Preferably, ask them about it both right after they do it, and then again some time later (best if you ask after they have forgotten the first conversation about the action).  At first, usually they will not know why they did that thing.  It was a small action, an unimportant thing, that didn’t need a story.  But when questioned, they will create a story, no matter how small, no matter how poorly constructed, to uphold their self-identity.  They will seek a story that holds a reason that somehow jells with the way they see themselves, through the lens of years or decades of stories repeating the same themes.

After they have forgotten the first conversation, ask again.  The story will probably have changed, although in many cases not by much.  It will hold together better, and small details will be altered to make it flow more freely and coherently.  It will be more according to the standards they expect of themselves, positive and negative, and it will be a better brick in the wall of self-identity.  The story gains stability the further away from the action the person is – because memory is a strange and mutable thing, and we color it in with details that make it easier for us to make sense of it in context of our world.

So, the thing I am going round and round trying to get at is this: we create our own set of stories, our own mythology of self.  My mythology of self is complex and at times incoherent, and interacts with others’ mythology of me in interesting and sometimes very surprising ways.  Everyone I know has a mythology of self – a series of stories that they have told to themselves and others that is part truth, part fiction, told and retold, honed and refined so that it supports and reinforces the person that they have convinced themselves they are.

The mythology of self is a critical part of human experience, I think.  It is utterly inseparable from the way people self-identify in a more scientific and psychological sense, and it is crucial to creating a bridge between separate people, so that they (like fractious deities in totally unrelated pantheons, forced to overlap and interact) can mingle their mythologies to help form a society that we can all thrive and find wonder in.

There is something in this idea, I think, that I will find really useful for exploring the concept of deity as self, and self as deity.  I will have to chase it down one day soon.  For now, I am having great fun poking holes in my own mythology, squinting skeptically at what ego and mis-memory created to convince me that I am me, and there is no other way to be.  We are humans and gods, children and crones who have a fascination with the other and the self, and we are inherently mutable and adaptable.  The mythology of self may well be one of the most powerful tools we have in reinventing our selves and our worlds to be people and places that we are invested in, joyful about, and in love with.

Paradoxes of pain.

Pain is a curious thing.  It creates different reactions in different people, at different times, under different circumstances.  Everyone goes through a lot of pain in their lives, and reacts to it in approximately seven squillion and three completely disparate ways, depending on… everything.

It has been a hell of a year.  It is about to be another hell of a year, but in completely different ways.  I am thinking about all of the pain that I have been through in the past year, and contemplating on the changes it has made in my body, my mind, my soul, my person.

 

I am more vicious.  I am more compassionate.  I am less likely to empathize.  I am more likely to understand.  I am stronger.  I am more willing to compromise.  I want to help more.  I’m better at drawing on boundaries on what is help, and what is enabling.

 

I love more people, more willingly, and am more open.  I am more afraid, and more defensive, and more likely to have violent reactions when people I love hurt me or make me afraid.

 

I’m less likely to hold grudges.  I don’t have the time or energy for the kind of hate I have nurtured in the past.  I don’t need the burning passion of despite against people; I have more than enough despite for causes and bigger problems and passions to keep me warm at any season, any time of day or night.  There are bigger things than people to be angry at; single persons are too small to deserve my destructive energies for long.

 

I am more resilient emotionally and mentally, and much more fragile physically.  I will be in the hospital a lot this year, and that doesn’t scare me as much as it should.  I am glad that I have friends and family and loves I can depend on to take care of me – and I am not afraid to depend on them, because having to ask for help is not weakness.

 

I have redefined weakness and strength, over and over and over.  I am still doing it, every hour and every day.

 

Pain had a hand in doing all this.   I am bitter and resentful and angry about my pain, and I understand very deeply why people are angry about the pain they suffer.  I cannot help but be grateful as well, because I cannot help but see how it has made me more into the person I want to be, and moved me further away from the person I was afraid I would be trapped into being for the rest of this life.

 

I hate my pain.  I love my pain.  I wish it had never happened, and wasn’t still happening.  I am grateful that it happened, and occasionally cut myself up with it internally, to teach myself the lessons it has to offer more clearly, more permanently.  Pain is a tool, a teacher, a punishment, a penance, a purgatory, a visceral experience.

 

What pain will this year bring?  What will I learn?  What will I fail to learn, that I will curse myself for after the fact?  What will I learn poorly or incorrectly, that will lead me down a path I will regret?  I don’t know.  I will learn some things well, some things badly, and it will be a hell of a year.  One way or another, it will be a hell of a year.

 

(I have talked to three or four people about pain today – to any of you that read this, thank you, and I hope that your own pain can be an ally.  If not today, then someday.)

Don’t flinch.

There will come a day where someone you love very deeply will come to you, and tell you that you have hurt them, cut them, made them bleed.  They will say to you that they love you, and they want only to love you, and that they need you to understand what has happened to them because of the things you have done or not done, said or not said.  And, if you are smart and courageous, you will say yes, because the love of a human being is nothing to let go to waste.  You will hear the wet broken glass of their soul, shattered, grating on itself, tearing itself apart trying to make sense of you, an inherently foreign creature.  If you are very, very lucky indeed, you will realize that you are hearing the sound of a human unmasked, unarmored, giving up and offering truth that can only be paid for in kind.  If you are very, very brave, you will admit that the only response is to watch them bleed, to hear them scream, to take their pain and make it part of you as well, because it would be a heresy to look away, to shut down, to disengage.  It will be terrifying, paralyzing, astounding, amazing, and one of the most painful things you have ever done.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

There will come a day when you see the soul of a stranger in the eyes of someone you love, when you see only distance and calculation where you thought there was a place of tenderness and intimacy.  You will know that you cannot face them unarmored anymore, because to do so is insanity, is inviting the wolf into your home, is bleeding in the territory of a feral creature and expecting it to do anything other than what its nature dictates.  And you will realize that, as you have faced and accepted the distance and calculation from them, there has been a change in yourself.  You will realize that no matter what the world behind your eyes looked like before, it is harder now: colder, darker, more desolate and desperate.  Every separation makes that change, and there are always soft things, delicate things, that you had not realized were blooming until they withered in the iced wind of dismissal.  You will have to accept two things, simultaneously: that being a being of changeableness, this is inevitable.  And that being a being of changeableness, the small buds and leaves will return, because no wind from any outside world can control the vistas of your imagination for long.  It will be frightening and invigorating, excruciating and liberating.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

There will come a day when you will try to find love and softness and connection in your heart and hands and mind, and it won’t be there.  You will search for the tender places in yourself, to give them up to another being, to form a connection.  They will not be there.  You will do everything in your power to root them out, and it will be like chasing mists and shadows, because they will run from you and what you intend.  You will be left with an empty armored shell, devoid of truth and meat and bone, because the things that are true have fled from your designs.  You have two choices, and only two: listen, or suffer.  You must accept one, and accept the consequences of it, and accept that it will have effects you can not yet begin to imagine.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

There will come a day when you try to see through the eyes of love, and all you have is a soft voice in your head that calculates advantage.  You will lie without a second thought or remorse.  You will cheat without seeing a problem.  You will do things you had not imagined possible to people who you claimed to love, and you will do them without a second thought, without a single hesitation.  Eventually you will see the truth: that love and advantage are not mutually exclusive, and that things that come without price tags are often worth more than things that have clearly marked invoices.  You will have to accept the idea of engaging without numbers, of being analog, of taking the price tags off yourself and of taking them off other people.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

There will come a day when you realize the bars that cage you are of your own creation, and that there is no lock on your actions or your self that you didn’t create for yourself.  You will see clearly, perhaps for the first time, perhaps for the hundredth, that the door to the cage has been open all along, and it is only your refusal to crawl out that keeps you confined.  You will see that the world outside that cage is huge and bright and beautiful and wondrous, and the only thing that is preventing you from experiencing every inch of it with every inch of yourself is you.  It will be the most daunting moment you will ever have, no matter how often you have it.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

The world is waiting.

Or you are going to feel a hell of a lot fucking worse.” – From Dusk ‘Til Dawn

And, lo and behold, my best got a hell of a lot fucking better, and I don’t feel a hell of a lot fucking worse.

I’ve gotten down a little under 3,000 good words of actual story content today.  No dialogue, nothing that will go verbatim into anything, but everything is Split City, and everything is something that will either fuel the plot or make the world tick over behind the plot, so it’s all directly useful.  I haven’t done anything nearly that productive on something that was my own project in over a year.

My best just got better, and the bar just went up.  Way up.  I’m pretty sure I’m happy about that – happy and terrified.  It’s a little daunting to look at what you can really do, when you focus and give it your best damn shot, as opposed to giving yourself reasons not to have to do the real fucking work.  This is the sharpest my brain has felt in a long damn time, and it feels really, REALLY good.  It’s the same feeling above the neck as a good sweaty workout followed by a hard spar gives me below the neck.  It’s exhausting and satisfying and makes me want to do it again tomorrow – and I have way more than enough bubbling in my brain to do it.

And because I did it today, there is less of a pressure cooker on the inside.  The city is starting to tick better because I am not hobbling myself, and I might get some decent non-chemical sleep.  Genuine joy in creation makes me feel more peaceful than I have in a long time, and more fulfilled than I have with anything I have created in more years than I care to count.  I am starting to have hope that this may be the first big art that I can actually bring to completion, instead of petering out partway through, and sighing and saying “someday…” and never getting around to it.  I want it to live, and I will see it through.  I am determined, and my best just got a hell of a lot fucking better.

And the phrase of the day is: squid saddle.  When you develop brain squids, buy squid tack and squid saddles.  It’s the only reasonable response.

“Thank you for not throwing away the things I gave you.”

 

When she said that to me, I was flabbergasted.  Seriously, completely stunned.  I still am, to a certain degree.  Why would I?  What could possibly have moved me to throw away anything given out of love, out of care, out of a desire to bring peace and protection?

 

“You seemed pretty angry at the time.”

 

I don’t care who you are, or what your life has been like, or what your circumstances are.  Don’t throw away anything someone gives you out of love.  Those things are too precious, too rare, too delicate to be cast out.  If you cannot live with them, find someone else who can, and who will benefit from the giving of them.  Love is worth more than any price, and cannot be replicated or replaced when it is cast off or cast out.  Don’t throw it away.  I don’t care how angry you are, or how hurt, or how whatever.  It is irreplaceable, and you cannot afford to throw the gifts of love away.  They are precious things.

 

If you are very, very lucky, you may never notice their loss.  You may be blind and deaf to the hole in your life where that love would be if you had not cast it out.  If you are not as lucky, there will always be an empty place, like a missing tooth that you just can’t help prodding with your tongue.  Relationships change, circumstances change, hearts change – but love doesn’t.  Gifts don’t, not when they are freely given.  Don’t throw them away.  You throw away a part of yourself, a part of your life, in the bargain, and it is something you can never retrieve.  If you cannot live with a gift, for its history or the pain that comes with it, find it a home.  Give it new life with someone else, and make it a gift again.  Hammer its love into a new shape, so that it pains you less, so that it brings someone else joy.

 

Gifts of love are priceless, and irreplaceable.  I will keep repeating that as often as I have to, because it is worth saying until everyone has heard it.  Too many people forget the value of gifts in the heat of anger.  If you love, or are loved, or both, cherish it, because love itself is a gift, too.  Don’t throw it away.  Better to put a price tag on your own soul than to throw away love, because the results will be less jarring, less painful, less wrenching, less killing.  At least you’ll get something back in the bargain, even if it can’t compare to what you’ve lost.

 

Love makes us bold and brilliant and beautiful.  Don’t throw away someone else’s beauty by throwing away their gifts, and don’t throw away your own in the heat of your own anger.

Nice things about being alone in my house: I can eat candy corn for breakfast and work naked in front of my computer on days when I am all ragged out from weekends.  (What? It’s a blog.  I can say thoroughly blog-y stereotypical things from time to time.  I am experimenting with intentional self-indulgence.)

 

So here’s the miscellaneous update of Stuff That’s Happened While I Wasn’t Writing Things Down:

1) Apparently the ass-back of nowhere, Kentucky has not yet discovered the Internet.  Note to self: import Al Gore ASAP.  So I have to collect all my notes from various gadgets and notebooks and dredge through memory (hyuk hyuk) to get back what I can of the experience itself.

2) The Cumberland Gap is beautiful country.  There is something surreal about going through the weather change between being in a giant meteor crater, going underground through a 2-mile tunnel, and coming out the other side into an entirely different world.  I had forgotten what it’s like to be in a land with seasons and heights when the seasons are changing and there is air and temperature and moisture moving and changing and making a difference.

3) Underground tunnels create their own wind.  Underground train tunnels have closets built into them so that idiots who wander into them and get stuck when a train is coming by can stuff themselves into the underground closet and not get smooshed like a bug on a truck windshield.  Coal trains are heavy, and almost impossible to stop.  Coal trucks, ditto.  Mines are fascinating, active mines are boggling, reclaimed mines are hellaciously fun to climb (by vehicle or foot) and peer at the billions of years of accretion and building and time all pulled up and turned over and crumbling at a touch.  Fascinating and sad and terrifying and wonderful, watching the wild take it back over.  Slag heaps – never seen one before.  Have now.  There is such a thing as fool’s coal – who knew?  Next time, the cast-off casting yards and foundries – skeletons of iron like dinosaurs of industry left to rust.  Shudderingly fascinating.  And more trains.  And, if I can get a functional jetpack, I have been promised that I can trespass on an active mine.  So now I have to find a functional jetpack.  (Apparently there is some concern that I am not *quite* nimble enough to dodge a three-lane-wide coal truck weighing 100s of tons going 70 mph. Piffle!)

4) You can smell an active mine from miles out.  It is a smell like nothing else.  It has its own miasma, especially at night.  Totally unique.  Horrifyingly fascinating.  My inner hippie and my inner industry rat go to war.  Obsession in the making.

5) I found entirely new people in the City, which is something that hasn’t happened in a while.  Pell Mell is a defined personality in a tribe I already knew was there, and one of the rare males-of-power.  Very happy to have met him, and I am looking forward to watching him go running downhill.  InterKid may or may not end up in the books, but he is fucking neat either way.  He is definitely a City denizen, and thoroughly different.  A cool pool of laid-back separatism.  Makes me kind of glad to meet a person who is a denizen who may or may not be involved at all.  Sort of neat.

6) Really reconnected with one old friend and got to know his fiancee (too lazy for accent marks) much better.  I cannot express how happy I am for them – they are disgustingly cutely in love, and it reminds me what love can be like.  Beautiful and adorable and vomit-inducing and fabulous.  Making plans to go up again in a few weeks, and thoroughly happy about that, too.

 

Above all, I am happy that I have used “happy” more times than is reasonable in this.  Joy tag ahoy, and life is better that it’s getting bigger again!

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