Unlisted.

January 28, 2011

I don’t know what it is that compels me to make lists of everything, but it’s a habit I have yet to break myself of. Whenever I’m feeling the need to organize my thoughts, a bulleted, segmented, thrice-written inventory has always been my preferred methodology. The end result of my list-making varies on the purpose of said composition. Lists work great for “To-Do” and “Shopping” but I think I take it to a whole new level sometimes…

My most recent list was penned out a few days ago in hopes of ascertaining some semblance of linear progression in my life. That is to say, I was trying to boil very complicated ideas down to the lowest common denominator. The lists were as follows:

“Things I want out of life”

“Things I stand for”

Easy right?

Wrong.

I wrote these two headlines. Traced the letters thoughtfully. Asked myself to be truthful, candid, and self-aware when responding. I doodled in the margins as I debated response; these two simple inquiries, staring me in the face.

I wrote half an answer. I scribbled it out. I closed my eyes and tried visualizing myself being/ doing anything I wanted. I wrote another half answer. I scribbled it out. I realized: I had no fucking clue. On either count, really. I didn’t feel confident in any of my responses enough to “solidify” them on paper– even just for my own reference.

I then spoke, out loud, to myself. “Come on, Kat,” I coerced. “This isn’t that hard.”

But, still, the swirl of uncertainty flushed my mind. After about half an hour, I had the same stupid cop-out answers I always give to what “I want out of life,” and– and it’s not with pride that I confide this– absolutely nothing in the “Things I stand for” section.

Nothing.

On the verge of tears, I gave up on my list and ingested half a benzo before I experienced a full-on anxiety attack. I felt utterly confused. Helpless. Stupid. Staring at a blank page where my fundamental beliefs should have been proudly staring me back.

Goddammit.

Days later, I still have no good answer. To the questions I wrote down, to what my problem is, to any of it. I’m thinking, more than anything, I am having a commitment issue– the plight of the college-educated journalist. I can’t stay interested in one thing. I can’t pick a side. I have a hard time putting myself into the story. But what do I do about this?

Stop making excuses for myself, as step 1. And step 2 would probably be JUST PICK SOMETHING. There is no gun to my head, no life or death scenario here. In fact, the only one expecting me to answer these questions is myself! Just pick a passion and roll with it. I can change my mind tomorrow. The next day. Or next year.

Much like standing before the pasta selection in my local airport-hangar sized grocery chain, the world is presenting me too many options. Too many ways to not just make a decision. Bowties or Elbows? Capellini or Rigatoni? I wish I were joking that these decisions stress me out, but I’m quite serious. Apply this indecision to my entire life.

So instead of drawing some faux conclusion, which I am always tempted to do when I write such entries– make it seem like I’ve got it all figured out just because I’ve broken it all down– I am soliciting advice…

How does one make the hard decisions in life without their hand being forced? How can one decide, with no reservations or doubt, what they stand for? How does a person follow their passion when they can’t even be certain what that even IS??

Pomp and Pride

January 24, 2011

One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from William Shakespeare, and I have used it on here before. “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

Since reading “As You Like It” many years ago, this phrase has stayed with me as a fact. It resonates strongly with my life paradigm, and reinforces my suspicions about most people I meet. It has inspired me to fill my life with fools, and to recognize my own incapacity to know it all.

I love to learn. As a child, I enjoyed school, devoured books, and relished tales from my grandparents. New knowledge is like food for the brain and spirit. It can change your whole perspective on things.

What I have come to realize, however, is that this seemingly insatiable desire for information is, in fact, hindered by my reluctance to be taught. My distinct inability to surrender the platform of knowledge upon which I stand, and simply go with the flow.

Human ego is a two-sided coin; both our species’ best and worst quality. Ego allows us to be self-aware, motivated, and conscious of societal concern. On the flip side of that, our egos are fragile little pieces of ourselves; parts we work hard to establish and then militantly protect. When creating– whether it be visual art, music, poetry, performance, food, software, whatever– the ego is in it’s glory. As humans, we tend to take some level of pride in the things we do: this is ego.

Throughout my childhood, I recall being asked by nearly every educator to provide two copies of a body of work– one copy of the finished product and, the other a “rough draft.” I presume that this rough draft would provide our teachers some sort of insight into the creative process, thusly ensuring that our spongey little minds were, in fact, the ones producing such masterpiece analyses of “Lord of the Flies,” US governmental structure, and the first world war. I assume the other benefit of such documentation would be to chart a student’s progress between initial thought and end result.

It is only in retrospect that I’ve come to realize that I never handed in a legitimate “rough” copy of anything. At least, not that I can remember. Instead, I wrote (as I do now) neurotically working my way through, obsessively analyzing every word the first time it was used, and created one copy of something I was very proud of. I threw away the scribbled-upon pages of college-ruled note paper as garbage– never something I would consider handing in with my name on it. Once finished, I would carefully contrive some “rough draft” to hand in alongside the final product.

No joke. I just couldn’t bring myself to hand in the real thing– the roadmap to my thoughts. Something about this seemed to violate my creative process; seemed a voyeuristic request on the part of my educators. Nope. What my teachers were handed was an even more carefully crafted version of my final– they read my “raw thought” and, in my mind, were perceiving exactly what I wanted them to. Move a comma, switch a sentence around, draw a few arrows– yes, dear fifth grade teacher, look at all I learned between the first time wrote this and the second time. What a good job you’ve done!

The truth of it is, writing is the only thing I’ve ever felt very confident in creating and, as mentioned before, creation is the physical manifestation of our egos. Inviting another to assess this creation is, in and of itself, an invitation for open season on this prideful sector of self. While this strange unwillingness to subject my thought process for review may not have negatively impacted my word-smithing, I’m able to note increasingly how it has affected other aspects of my life.

For instance, as someone who is almost constantly surrounded by musicians, I have only once, and only for about 3 hours, earnestly attempted to play guitar. With much anxiety, I sat in a room of my friends, most of whom were paying no attention to me whatsoever, and apprehensively took my first and only “lesson.” After a while, I thought to myself “nobody wants to hear me play bad guitar for hours” and never played again. I’ve spoken several times since about purchasing my own instrument and teaching myself, but I’m fairly convinced music is something I am simply not good at– especially in light of how incredible some of the people I know are. It sounds like a defeatist attitude, and perhaps it is just that. But I’m coming to realize that maybe it is my insane inability to forego the preconceptions that I’m supposed to be prideful of something before I allow another to bear witness to it. The old “rough draft” problem.

In light of all this, I suppose it’s high time I at least make an attempt at reforming this aspect of self. Pride and ego stymie creativity, not encourage it, and the more we put out into the universe, the more we are to receive. I know it’s no simple thing– old habits die hard, and my writing will always be a soft spot– but making a concerted effort to be more absorbent of the vast information available to me can only be beneficial to my worldview. Regardless of what value I determine something to have, there is no harm in allowing another to exert their egotism and “teach” me.

I mean, who knows, I might actually learn something?

This experience is not a costumed run-through for some well-polished performance of Life.

This is it. The real thing. All we get. Right now.

This is life, it is short, and we are using it up more quickly than we realize. Our ultimate non-renewable resource.

The seconds, the hours, the weeks, the years. Every moment of every day, humans are providedopportunity. We need to stop waking up in the morning and giving that opportunity to someone else. We need to stop worrying about judgement, or repercussions. The future always seems so far away until it’s the past– then all we want to do is hold it closely, whispering of all the ways we could have done it differently. Foregoing our “right now” for another glimpse at yesterday. Reveling in a bittersweet nostalgia while more opportunity slips away. Slips away. Slips away.

From where I am standing, that is my biggest fear. Regret. Remorse. A perfect view in hindsight of a life I could have had.

Somewhere along the way, it was planted in my fertile little mind that I could be anything I wanted to be. After 24 years of going through the motions, I’m realizing that it’s no longer a matter of “what do I want to be *when* I grow up;” the question is now “what do I want to be *since* I’m grown up?” And it’s a pretty legitimate question, no matter what walk of life you are in. Are you who you want to be?

In a world where comfortable survival were guaranteed, monetary pressures were irrelevant, and society passed no judgement on you: what would you do?

In my mind, whatever answer you provide to that question is what you truly, deeply desire for your life. In asking others this question, I’ve noticed several things. Firstly, many people cannot even fathom existence without money as their motivator. In contemporary culture, money = survival.

Another observation is that many people turn, then, to procreation. They would, in a simple world, expend reallocated energy on family. This led me to conclude (perhaps obviously) that our species understands survival. Without the concern over making it another day, I think many would feel a sense of purpose-less-ness.

Which brings me to my second point– that feeling of purpose-less-ness is what I experience every day. Money motivates me only insofar as doing what I’m “supposed to do” is concerned. It keeps the collectors from calling my mom to pick up my tab, it keeps my dog fed, and having a job gives me something to talk about at social functions. I went through the education system, the higher education system, and now I’m working in an office. It’s all very linear and logical. I get a gold star on my chart, cultural approval, and I get to pat myself on the back every other Thursday, while standing in line at the bank.

As far as breeding, it just doesn’t feel right for me. It has never felt as though a family could be my “purpose,” nor has it ever been my desire. Perhaps some women *can* do it all– the career, the kids, the social life– but I don’t think I want to try the balancing act. I am not a jack-of-all type of girl; I’m something of a perfectionist, and feel disappointed in myself if results are anything short of praise-worthy. I get anxiety over starting something I don’t have confidence in my finishing well, and raising kids is a complex objective art. Time-consuming, to say the least.

In a world without any necessity for labor, I would travel and write. This has been my answer for as long as I can remember. I would see the world, learning as much as possible, then synthesize and regurgitate this information with others. Words thrill me. They always have. Thrilling others with my words– bringing them to a time and place where  I stood, and trying to share a feeling– that is the greatest gratification I find in life.

I’m realizing that I am my own biggest roadblock. I have created the wall of “what if(s)” and “but I could never(s)” that separates me from the life I want to live. I adopt a defeatist attitude before I even enter the ring and face my opponent. I am excusing away my opportunities, as though the ship set sail long ago. No more.

It’s time for me to take action on a number of things. First and foremost, giving myself credit where it’s due. I am living one version of my dream. In little bits and bites. In fragments every time I post a blog, and x-number of people intentionally digest the contents of my mind. I am a published author; even if it’s one tiny corner of a vast sea of information. I started something from nothing, and I am getting back what I put in. It may not be the most monumental “something” of our time, but I’m not finished yet. And I AM learning about the world. Every single day, I encounter a new person, place, or bit of information.

So what more do I want?

That has become, for me, the most essential inquisitive. Who do I want to be? That’s step one to getting there.

Something spectacular. That’s my answer; the only thing I will settle for. I have this whole life to get there, and not starting today is inexcusable. More and better tomorrow. More and better the next day. The only thing holding me back from possibility is myself– pride, ego, and fear. In the end, I am realizing, it is better to have a long track record of phenomenal failures than to have taken no risks at all.

For Auld Lange Syne, My Dear

December 29, 2010

At the end of each December, we in the first world feel compelled to reflect, introspect, and project into the future. We think about the past 365 days, and all the nouns and verbs that have filled them.

Our linear human sensibilities provoke nostalgia over another measured segment of a relative concept. We think back on all the promises we made ourselves 52 weeks ago, and how successfully these goals were met. Realistically, we could pick any day to start over. To get a new job, a new lover, a new home. We could select any of the 364 “other” days to begin our diets, stop procrastinating, or spend more time with the kids.

But something about this singular date 1/1 incites within our ambitious little souls an urge for improvement. Something about this mid-winter’s day– after the excitement of the holidays has worn out it’s welcome, and the guests have all gone home– causes us to think about who we’ve been and, more importantly, who we want to be.

The word of the day is Resolution.

What can one do to be more, or different? What changes can be made, starting January first, to improve our lifestyles? To become better humans?

I spent the first 6 hours of 2010 inside my head. Sitting at the wheel of my car in a parking lot, with a friend I’ve had since highschool. We talked. And sat. We listened to one of my favorite Grateful Dead shows, loudly, and opened the moon roof in the snow. I thought about who I was sitting with. I thought about everyone I was not with. I thought about Phish launching their drummer from a cannon in Miami, my car, and the strides I made in 2009. I thought about work, about my family, and how long it had been since my last drink. And then I made some resolutions.

Stretch more, drink lots of water, and be nice to your car.

That was it. Those were the best, most reasonable resolutions I could envision for myself. Being more limber, hydrated, and ready for action. Baby steps.

Here, in the final stretch of 2010, there is no doubt in my mind that this was a personally successful year. I kept all my resolutions, and then some. Early last January, I began spending time with a man whom has, many times over the past 12 months, been the sunshine in my otherwise overcast Rochester sky. In the spring, I started this blog which has, to date, well over 5,000 hits. In the summer I saw a bunch of shows, and began a large-scale writing project– which is still very much underway. In August, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit some friends in Colorado, who are some of the most wonderful and inspiring people I know. I’ve lost ten pounds. I’ve only been sick once. I feel good about myself, inside and out.

And now, a year after sitting stagnant in my blue Subaru (which got 4 new tires and a new head-gasket in 2010) in a parking lot in my hometown, thinking about Phish and the world at large; I am getting in my car and driving to the biggest city on the east coast to see one of my favorite bands with friends from all over the country. For whatever negativity and complaining occurred (and I know I’m full of it), I feel overwhelming gratitude toward everyone and everything that has pushed this year toward it’s culmination.

For 2011, I am resolving to create more structure in my life outside of the 9-5. Join a yoga class, or a team (kickball in 2010 did happen), or volunteer some time. Getting in the habit of doing things I enjoy. I’m also promising myself I will write more and sleep better. That’s it.

Drink responsibly. Get home safely. Love and appreciate the life you’ve been given. Happy New Year, see you all in 2011.

“If you believe in peace, act peacefully; if you believe in love, acting lovingly; if you believe every which way, then act every which way, that’s perfectly valid – but don’t go out trying to sell your beliefs to the system. You end up contradicting what you profess to believe in, and you set a bum example. If you want to change the world, change yourself.” [[TomRobbins.StillLifeWithWoodpecker]]


Out on a High Wire

December 21, 2010

There’s a fine line…

Between right and wrong; genius and insanity; fact and fiction. Between comedy and tragedy; love and hate; excitement and danger; art and pornography. Between success and failure; perception and reality. There’s a fine line.

Somewhere, there is this microscopic division elusively chalked, deceptively drawn in the sand. Somewhere, there is a border and an other side. There exists– between the perfectly ok and horrendously offensive– a detectible limitation, however small it may be. In fact, the smaller this division, the more curiously appealing it’s location becomes.

Lately, I have found myself in the throes of a deep introspection. I know, what else is new? But something about this feels much more fundamental than my daily identity crisis– more tangible. It was pointed out to me that this may be what is referred to as a paradigm shift. That feels right.

I recognized this shift after a long stretch of unusual reservation on my part. Instead of boisterously participating in conversations, I noticed myself with minimal contribution. Not for lack of knowledge, but because I couldn’t pick a damn side. On anything. I tried writing and, before I could really complete a thought, found myself making a blatant counterpoint. It is frustrating to be so personally conflicted.

There is a fine line between knowing exactly what you mean, and having no clue what the fuck you are talking about.

So I’m standing somewhere near this fine line. I must be. It feels like everything and nothing, all at once. And the line is moving, creeping, edging further. It is changing, rearranging the landscape of everything I “know.” Meanwhile, grasping desperately at my ideologies, I feel them tumbling after. Jumbling into some familiar, yet foreign archetype of social framework.

I am wondering whether it’s just me, or if there’s not something at work in our collective consciousness– everyone testing the edges. As though humanity is trying to suss out where precisely that fine line lies. All of us pushing against the box at once.

It’s very subtle, yet legitimate; feels more like slide than a plunge. Cognizant evolution.

Whatever it is, I’m so ready.

My Super Sweet 24th

November 30, 2010

This year, I awoke on my birthday from a bizarre recurring dream, quite literally on the wrong side of the bed. Cue the waterworks. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, after 24 Gregorian calendar years, this is the sort of very mature behavior I engage in. Throwing a tantrum in my jammies.

After scraping myself together, with a little help from the most wonderful gentleman a girl could ask for, I managed to get out of the funk and put on a smile. Thanksgiving dinner with my family and friends was mellow and nice, I got my gluttony on, and it didn’t snow– which is a rarity for the end of November ’round these parts.

Most people would probably consider this an acceptable birthday and call it quits; but not this girl. Not only did I close out the day with a good sob, but I, then, woke up in the middle of the night for an encore performance. Not just a couple tears, I’m talking full shudders.

(Yes. On Thanksgiving. I know, I should have been making lists of things I am grateful for, and counting my blessings, and all that.)

Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have cried on my birthday.

Why?

It’s a fair question. One that, until this year, I found myself at a loss for a sufficient answer to. Beyond the superficial triggers, I could only rationalize that some underlying cause was at work; making me feel much less than enthusiastic about my planetary anniversary. Naturally, I assumed it was my human perception of finite time making me nostalgic. Hence, the tears. Birthdays tend to highlight our status as mortal, and thereby fragile, beings.

Ah, yes, perhaps feeling Newtonian in spite of myself. But that sort of philosophical scapegoat never fit quite right. No matter how erudite this hypothesis makes me sound, the birthday tears seem to be caused by something much deeper than superego-fueled aesthetics.

A bit reluctantly, I turned to a more obvious culprit: the little Kat inside me who– even after almost a quarter century– wants her princess birthday. I concede that birthdays are generally underwhelming, and my inner child might have had difficulty coming to terms with this reality. Somewhere, deep inside, I want to wake up on my birthday and have it be the *most awesome day of my life* that it felt like once upon a time. Subconsciously struggling to recapture a feeling I haven’t been capable of since I was maybe 5 years old. A sense of inevitable disappointment 364 days in the making.

But blaming the Id part of myself for the tears didn’t feel right, either. Sure, I guess there is the “perfect” birthday, but I’m no stranger to reality– not any time of the year– November 25 doesn’t really come with much more expectation. What I felt wasn’t really “disappointment” as much as a general desire to absolutely, and inexplicably, bawl.

Some days later, having gotten over whatever trivial matters I let disturb me so, I came to the realization that maybe I cry on my birthdays just because… I can.

Is it “normal?” Or “uplifting?”

Who cares.

“Should” I be crying?

Who cares.

The bottom line is that celebrating our own life anniversaries is incredibly self-indulgent, no matter what. For me, weeping shamelessly seems to roll right into that. Impetus irrelevant.

Peculiar, maybe, but I don’t owe any apologies. With or without the tears, I am glad to be here– another year older, arguably wiser, and still waiting on the maturity I assumed I’d be handed when I “grew up.”

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough. [[AlbertEinstein]]

Are We There Yet?

November 12, 2010

Recently, feeling down on myself (bummed about the change of seasons and creatively frustrated, among other things), I sat down with a notepad for a bit of self-analysis.  My blank page immediately became–

Things that suck about you:

Good Qualities:

In that order. Just like that. And I started to fill it out.

The last time I made a list like this was when I quit drinking, which was definitely a low point for me. My sobriety list inspired a complete reorganization of my personal agenda. As a language-oriented person, as well as a brutally honest Sagittarius, I find it advantageous to put thoughts into words. Throughout the years, I’ve composed a number of these self-evaluations, and like to consider myself a pretty actualized individual.

All that said, one persistent trend– more important, in some ways, than the actual traits on the lists themselves– is that my negatives list consistently dwarfs the positives. No matter what. In fact, I even ran out of room under my “Things that suck about you” and began annexing the “Good Qualities” space for such traits as “Insistent,” “Brash,” and “Impatient.” I had well over a dozen bad qualities written before I even so much as considered penning a nice thing about myself.

Then it took me a minute. Maybe even two. Before I put down “OK Writer.” Yes, just OK. And another minute, maybe two, before I came up with “Nice rack.”

Honest to Icculus, people, the second “Good” thing I could come up with about myself is my breasts. Shame on me. For real.

So, I made this list. And I cried. But, to be fair, I was pretty depressed when I started the damn thing, I wasn’t really doing it for the uplift. As I re-read my carefully selected adjectives, I added “Harsh Critic” to the end of my “sucks” list. Then wrote it again at the end of my positives.

And then I got stuck.

Suddenly my cleverly divided list wasn’t so black and white anymore.

It dawned on me that the “uncensored opinions” from the “Things that suck about you” analysis were the same opinions that made me “always truthful,” which had seemed a Good Quality. The “over-analytical” negative trait, in another light, becomes “socially observant,” an aspect of myself that I embrace.

Well, shit, I thought to myself. Now what? My intention in compiling an evaluation had been enacting positive change. A year ago, I was incredibly productive using this method. I recognized a number of undesirable qualities and was able to eliminate some degree of self-loathing via personal growth. I can actually pinpoint milestone moments and epiphanies. I consider the last year of my life, in that regard, a smashing success.

Why, then, was I sitting a year later at the same kitchen table crying over an equally lengthy bullet-point analysis? How successful is that? Where did these additional Things that Suck come from?

…Again, I am a “Harsh Critic.”

Of other people, yes, but most of all myself. I tried to remember the last time I felt really awesome about anything I had said, written, or done… and quickly I was left questioning how “awesome” anything I ever did really was…

I am my own worst enemy. I know I am not alone, either. Lots of people in the world are insecure. Lots of people think everything they do is garbage. And, most importantly, lots of people are absolutely sure that they will never be good enough. Good enough for what? It honestly doesn’t matter. It’s an insatiability. The feeling that there is room for improvement. It goes beyond “positive quality” or “detrimental trait.” It’s human. It’s a civil war of the ego, and it’s nothing unique to any of us.

If none of us ever felt like monumental failures, would we be motivated to progress? If we all walked around, confident in how we look, act, and present ourselves; confident that we were always in the right; confident that everything we did was top-notch– what encouragement would we have to improve?

At the end of the day, it became evident that although my “Things that suck about you” list was nearly double the length of the “Good Qualities,” many of these divergent characteristics were rooted in the same damn personality traits. It’s unfair to myself to count “conversationally dominant” and “doesn’t know when to shut up” as two separate negative qualities, while considering “easily social” as something I like. They represent the exact same characteristic displaying itself in different contexts.

Failure, success, perfection, hard work. All relatively defined terms. In our universe void of inertia, none of these words mean the same thing from one moment to the next. Weighing ourselves against these slippery terms is like attempting to measure love in yards.

Not to say there is no room for self-improvement, but, in the scheme of things, I have taken enormous strides toward becoming the person I want to be. The next evening, feeling a little less depressed, I sat down and, instead of creating contrast, I re-composed the exact same list of characteristics into one list titled “Things I Know about Kat”

[[Nice rack is still on there]]