Sunday Morning, Rain Is Falling

Sunday evening.  Close enough.

I don’t like the holidays.  I get grumpy, fidgety, and depressed.  Here are some highlights (lowlights?) from a late-December weekend.


At the coffee place, yesterday:

I had earbuds in, because of the Christmas music (holiday thesis statement:  I hate Christmas).  There was an unsupervised small person next to me, and he asked what I was listening to.

Me:  Velvet Underground.

Him:  Is that the name of the song?

Me:  No, the song is called “Venus in Furs.”

Him:  What’s it about?

Me:  Love.

And no, I don’t have children.  And I’m not ever around them.  So don’t call DSS.


I can tell it’s getting really close to the dreaded 25th because my anxiety is through the roof (more than usual).  I had a substantial freakout yesterday that resulted in frantic texting, mostly to assure me that I had not ruined my life forever and always.  Apologies again to the person on the receiving end of that one.


It’s not all my typical anxiety, which tends to come from overanalyzing everything.  And everything else.

Both bulbs in my bedroom burned out, which I put off dealing with as long as possible:  I decided to fix it, finally, when I was squinting in the semi-darkness this morning, trying to determine if I was holding the navy tights with stars or the black ones.  For future reference, the navy ones have the small stars, and the black ones have larger stars.  And I changed my mind and didn’t wear either pair, in the end.

That was just trying to get out of the house.


So I wisely waited until after nightfall to change the bulbs, because darkness is the ideal way to attempt that.  I dragged a kitchen chair into the bedroom and finally got the fixture down.  When I got the box of bulbs, there was only one of the correct wattage.  I have a box of four bulbs of a different wattage, but having non-identical lightbulbs hovering over my head would effectively blow my mind.  So I changed one bulb.

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One is the loneliest number.

See also:  previous post about the so-called Minute Rice, which I ended up giving away.


When washing dishes, wash dishes.

Or, alternatively, brood!  This is where “Sunday Morning” comes in.  I was thinking through the lyrics and trying to decide if that or “Heroin” is the most depressing song on that album.  I unfairly created a tie by designating the latter the most overtly depressing and the former the most subtly depressing.


I tried to pep myself up with John Prine, but I gave up midway through “Sam Stone.”  In retrospect, probably not the best pick, either.


This picture, taken while visiting my parents, sums up how I feel:

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Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.


 

A Super-Deep Reflection: Solitude

Yeah, right.  I’m going to start off with how I dropped my phone down my pants.

Tomorrow is pickup day, and I was hauling the bins to the alley.  I needed to carry my phone but had no pockets, so I stuck it in my waistband.  MacGyver, right?  I didn’t even make it the five or six feet to the bins before the phone worked its way out of my waistband and down my leg.  It’s been raining, and the ground is soaked, so I ended up trying to hold my leg out horizontally so I could remove the phone without drowning it.

Later, after dark, my elusive new neighbor or neighbors came in, and I heard a bin thunk.  The one I’ve met, whose name is Chase or Hunter or Chet or something, appears to have gotten separated from his fraternity herd, and I wasn’t counting on him to pick up a bin that he’d knocked over with his car.  By this time, it was raining again, so I stood at my back door, in my pajamas, holding a keychain flashlight (shaped like a pig, and yes, it does oink while illuminating), trying to pinpoint the location of the trash.

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What this has to do with solitude:  it makes you act like you were raised by wolves.  Or, more accurately, living alone causes you to lose your set of “is this normal?” checks and balances.  I suspect that even those living the contemplative life sometimes wear beanies indoors– who’s going to know?

I ended up going outside about 11 PM, in pajamas and Doc Martens.  It was a look, that’s for sure.

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There’s no need for an essay discussing pros and cons of being alone, and I hate pro-con lists anyway:  they tend to be paralyzing, unless you actually do know what you need to do but have to rationalize it.


I was considering cooking Minute Rice last night.  I got entirely hung up on the directions:  why does Minute Rice take five minutes to cook, five to solidify (or whatever)?

I had cheese and crackers.  The Minute Rice question was too fraught.

That’s an example of when having someone with me to say “shut up and cook the damn rice” might have been helpful.


The point I’m getting around to:

  • At what point do these quirks hit the irreversible Grey Gardens threshold?

Increasingly, I worry that I’m incapable of being around other humans for extended periods of time.  Yes, I know my personality is a factor.  Thanks for pointing that out.

But:  are the other oddities becoming embedded?  Am I becoming inflexible?  Does isolation feed on itself?

When did I develop my mother’s habit of flinging myself into this-place-has-to-look-decent mode before someone comes over?


I’m not broken over here, but is my crack showing?

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I am *killing* normal here.

The Newsfeed in Your Newsfeed

I’ve apparently taken a long leave of absence from blogging:  I blame the flurry of work and writing that accompanied finishing the MLIS (which is done!).

So here’s a little post/essay to interrupt your regularly-scheduled OITNB viewing.  If you’re like me, you immediately tried to find the song that ended the first episode.  Because I find it Deeply Inspirational, here it is:

NSFW


The topic here is my tangled attempt to explain something I articulated poorly.  I said I deliberately dressed in a performative way, which was vague and confusing.  What I said was a lazy shorthand for what I should have been more specific about.


So, here is the not-shorthand version:


 The personal is very public at this time (see:  social media, particularly Facebook), and it’s often unfiltered (Twitter, anyone?).  Like so many other people, I use social media (Facebook, in my case) to construct the image of myself I want others to have.  We’re all yelling at people to ignore the man behind the curtain, to varying degrees. The genius and pitfall of social media is, that if you put thought into it, you become your own PR person.

 I do something similar with clothing.  I construct an identity that functions as a tent pitched protectively around the things I want to keep hidden.  I’m not talking about physicality, though I certainly could (but that’s not very interesting).  Every time I get dressed, I put on clothes and throw a blanket over myself.  Part of that is shame (emotional, physical):  I need to cover something up.  Part of it is hiding:  my clothes are my blanket fort.

In a contradiction (the confusing part), clothing as performance can call attention to myself, which is not what I want.  It’s inevitable, though:  who can ignore a walking blanket fort?  So what is going on?  It’s deflection:  look at this, but don’t look at me.  In a culture obsessed with distilling things to a perfectly flat surface (a phone screen, a laptop), it’s simple to turn the human form into a “virtual” social media feed.  I ask you to look at what I display and only what I outwardly display.

The outward display leaves limited space for comments and engagement, which is the effect I want to have.  It’s the picture I’m posting to prove that God’s in His heaven– all’s right with the world (here — “Pippa Passes”– talk amongst yourselves!).

Clothing as performance thus provides me with a shortcut way of expressing (publicly) that I’m okay, confident, colorful, and unashamed.  I am representing myself (on a daily basis) in the current cultural vernacular of virtual reality.  Please understand that I am not talking about social media; I’m talking about how 24/7 existence is increasingly interpreted as a newsfeed.  I’m not talking about lenses in the college-essay way, either.  I mean that reality really is merging with virtual reality.  There’s not even a lens of separation.  I am here copping to taking advantage of that.

The real reality– myself, the machine parts that power the display– is safely encased. (I’m not going to blather about whether or not there is such thing as objective reality; head over to Reddit if you’re interested).  Few people deconstruct an object that appears to be working perfectly well.  We count on people not probing beyond their phone screens to see what’s really going on, and I’m counting on people not to pick at my sleeve.

It works remarkably, or maybe worryingly, well.


This post is deliberately image-free.  The featured image is a picture of the sky.  That’s it.  The sky.  Make of it what you will, though, as we always do.

I Want You to Want Me

The song titles are getting away from me; however, to my credit, “My Bloody Valentine” was the first thing that came to mind, and I skipped that.  Last year’s Valentine’s post was a cards compendium.  This year, it’s shorter:  I’m ditching the efforts of every dating site and app in favor of the Prost Questionnaire.

I normally resist linking to Wikipedia, but here’s a brief history.  Here’s a more interesting link with David Bowie’s answers (given to Vanity Fair); from there, you can also view the answers of a number of other people that might pique your interest.

But you also get me.  Sorry.  My version of the questions is from here.


 

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?  If there is such a thing as perfect happiness, it exists only in moments, as a transient state.  Happiness, perfect or otherwise, is mutable and must be achieved over and over again.  It is a series of moments, not a resting place.
  2. What is your greatest fear?  I can think of a lot of abstract fears of things that have never happened to me:  terrible things.  The most concrete answer I can give is when I think back to my lowest moment and imagine being there again, replaying the emotions and physical sensations I felt then.  Realistically, that is the greatest fear I have.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  I have difficulty knowing how to respond to things other people say in any appropriate manner.  I can attempt to filter a response and then agonize over it for days/hours afterward, but I can’t say something and then be comfortable with it.  I think it’s a fear of presenting an authentic self and feeling comfortable with that.  That sounds very egotistical.  I’m just typing this on the fly.  
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Lack of self-awareness, unquestionably.
  5. Which living person do you most admire?  I hope that I can look for something to admire in everyone, but I’m getting a bit cynical on that front lately.  I have not thought of a specific #1 person and suspect this position would be a rotating one.  Actually, I think I’d like to debate this one over coffee.
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?  Have you SEEN my book collection?  Though I question whether those are an extravagance or a necessity.  The qualifier might be that I own physical copies of many things that I could borrow or own in electronic format, but I am extremely partial to having my own marked-up hard copies.
  7. What is your current state of mind?  Picture an old-school card catalog; that’s where I have all the books, music, etc. I’ve read or am interested in filed away.  Next to that is a filing cabinet, where I have all the relevant/interesting information I’ve gleaned from the former.  Throw a tornado in there.  Now you’ve got it.
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  Anything that the current moment declares a virtue.
  9. On what occasion do you lie?  Lately, about what I’m doing with my life.  I’m ashamed that I do it, but I’m ashamed to be in such a suspended state.  I do this to people I won’t see again.
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?  NOT the right person for this question.  Pass.  There are only 24 hours in a day.
  11. Which living person do you most despise?  Oh, my.  There was a debate last night featuring America’s Most Wanted Sociopaths.  
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?  How about one I don’t like but have had occasion to observe a lot lately?  Colonizing public spaces, physically and vocally.  So I like it when people don’t do that.
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?  Don’t put yourself down, jokingly or otherwise; it’s a protective mechanism against letting someone else do it first.
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  actually, probably, apparently, possibly
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?  [this space reserved] 
  16. When and where were you happiest?  I hope I haven’t hit this yet.
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?  The ability to pre-plan without anxiety.
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  I would turn down the volume on the anxiety that bleeds into so many other things:  how I react, how I speak/respond, things I do.
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Currently, maintaining the health I’ve worked for.
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?  One of Bob Ross’s happy clouds.
  21. Where would you most like to live?  The British Library.
  22. What is your most treasured possession?  My books, because my cat is not a possession.  You do not possess cats.
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  See #2.  I can speak most concretely to misery as I’ve experienced it.  In short, though, when my world has been most reduced, I’ve been most miserable.  When it opens up, I’m happier.
  24. What is your favorite occupation?  Reading, but I’m prone to doing multiple things at once.
  25. What is your most marked characteristic?  I think that’s best observed by other people; I doubt I’d catch it.
  26. What do you most value in your friends?  I hope they know.  If they don’t, I need to tell them personally.  
  27. Who are your favorite writers?  There are only 24 hours . . . I already said that.  Currently, Sarah Waters, Jeannette Winterson, Ali Smith, Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Wallace Stevens, Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, I can keep going.
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?  Dr. DeSoto
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?  Someone in the background of a crowd scene of a painting, on the edges.
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?  Numerous.
  31. What are your favorite names?  You know a name I really like that I could name neither child nor pet?  Tess.  Thomas Hardy ruined that one for everyone.
  32. What is it that you most dislike?  Coconut.  As well as mistaking opinion for fact, which tends to be joined with the lack of self-awareness previously referenced.
  33. What is your greatest regret?  Nope.
  34. How would you like to die?  There’s a great Reno 911 bit about this.  How about defenestration?  Can you imagine the newspaper having to print that in your obituary?  “in local news, . . . .”
  35. What is your motto? See God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater– ever since I first read that as a teenager.


 

Can I Offer to Take out Anyone’s Garbage?

This one is about the care and handling of the feral holiday creature.  You know:  that person in your life who approaches the holiday season by hiding under the bed and screaming “resistance is futile!” as you try to drag them out by the leg (the one that’s kicking you).  Me, for instance.  And any of the rest of you who fit that description– or are bewildered by the person you know who does.


 

For some people, cold weather means a series of festive holidays:  decorations, celebrations, and community.

For people like me, it means looking up state statutes, trying to figure what precise crimes to commit that would result result in your unfortunate incarceration throughout the holiday period.

It would make RSVPs and no-shows a lot more interesting:  I’m sorry, but I didn’t qualify for good behavior (but I swear I didn’t start it!).  Or:  the warden and I have a prior engagement.

Yep.  Every year.  I have to.  

50th anniversary this year!  [recorded 1967–> 2 Thanksgivings ago –> 1965]


 

People like me will also tend to feel alone and isolated during this time.  Paradoxically, we will also hole up in our hobbit-holes and refuse to engage with the outside world.

The problem here– and what people tend not to understand– is that we don’t want to be alone, and we are not actually avoiding people.  What we’re avoiding is the mega-watt sensory overload that is October through December.  Spend time with a friend?  Sounds great.  Does this involve going to a mall (in traffic), having an anxiety attack while trying to park, fighting hordes of people, shouting over piped-in music, and hunkering down for limited real estate at a Starbucks?  Oh.  Never mind.  I suddenly have a cold, or perhaps bubonic plague.


 

I’ve lost count of how many times SAD has come up recently, as if I might not have noticed that this affects me.  Vitamins, sunshine, and special lights are popular solutions.  My favored solution is hibernating until I see daffodils.  The medical community does not endorse this.

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Signs of better days.


I’m fine with the idea that some people like to go all-out.  What I don’t like is feeling like Debbie Downer because this is not something I enjoy, and I start to consider a smoking habit just to have an excuse to step outside.  Somehow, I always end up being defensive or mocked.

All of that is somewhat painful, because it’s difficult to say, “I’d like to participate, BUT.”  The “but” tends to be where the misunderstanding (“failure to communicate”) begins.  It helps if you keep listening to what follows the “but,” because that part is going to be different for everybody. It’s the crucial information, though:  the part where someone is going to be honest and skip over any canned explanations about why they’re not going out (consumerism, whatever) and tell you what’s really up.


 

So here’s a fairly modest proposal:  this holiday season, find the person who has refused every invitation on grounds such as toenail fungus and brain fever.  Ask them if they’d like to get coffee somewhere small and quiet.  Talk and joke aimlessly.  Don’t tell them how they “should” spend the holidays or try to solve things.  No advice is necessary.  Just sit and talk.


 

Greta Garbo was frustrated by the ongoing misattribution of “I want to be alone!” as her own words.  She said (of herself):  “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be let alone!’ There is all the difference.”

Most of us can’t quite deliver a Garbo performance, and we end up seeming aloof and indifferent.  But we don’t want to be alone; we just don’t want to be in the thick of things.

Probably we could explain better over a (quiet) cup of coffee.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

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Garbo on a picnic– that’s the spirit!

image:  http://www.garboforever.com/Cooking_and_eating.htm