I didn’t die; I’m still here.

Amazing how I can go from writing almost daily to nothing in a matter of months.  Work has taken so much out of me that by the end of the night, all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry or fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.  I have never been able to comprehend people’s behaviors.  Even my own.  Whenever I try to justify an action or thought, it gets twisted and mangled in supposition and doubt.  And what feels worse is that when I try to describe my feelings to someone, they either don’t get it or they don’t believe it’s as bad as I say it is.  The only thing I can think in return is, if it’s not as bad as I say it is, why have I turned to this negative behavior?  I’m not doing it for my amusement, my joy, because it brings none of those things.  I’m doing it because it’s the only way I can see things helping, because I lack the maturity and the knowledge to move forward in a more productive way.

The other day I was attempting to describe this pit of despair I feel when it comes to my past, my present, and my future.  I feel like the last five years have held some life altering moments (more than some, quite a few) and that I am not sure what to make of them.  When I look at everything I become paralyzed because the person I became is not the person I dream of, and I am not sure which way to move.  It’s like a crazy-fun-house-of-mirrors; everywhere you look you see a different reflection and through it all, you can’t find the door to get the hell out of the nightmare.

Were the last five years pointless?  I remember happy times, but when I let myself think about them, they become overshadowed by all my insecurities.  Not just about relationships, but about my life choices, my life goals, my life in general.  It’s hard to admit to those things, and hard to reconcile that maybe all I have done for the past X amount of time is floating in time and space waiting for something grand to happen to me.  I have to make it happen to me.

I have yet to find contentment, and with that happiness.  A friend once said that looking for sublime happiness is a silly pastime, because we are happy in moments.  It is not something that sustains, but we can weave a web of happy moments to create a happy life.  We should chase after those moments, not wait for them to come upon us.  And thinking about that in the context of my work really makes me ultimately sad.  Yesterday, my boss and I had this small communication in which she said, “It’s not the work, the work is okay, I enjoy it some times, it’s all the other stuff.  It just gets me down, it bums me out.”  I heartily agreed.  The “other stuff,” the I-can’t-do-anything-right-because-I-piss-someone-off stuff, it just has taken such a toll on me that it is leaking into the other parts of my life.  People have told me time and again to not let work mingle with my personal and social life, that I should leave the arguments and passive aggressiveness, the meanness and drama, at work, and not bring it home where I can relax, but when things become personal and the problems at work no longer are about ACTUAL work, it’s hard to not mix the two.  It’s no longer about who is the better worker, who has the most potential, who is right for the job, it’s about mean, rude, pointed comments directed at me.  And the best part about the conversation I had with my boss is that she knows, she knows, that I can empathize 110%.  She’s seen and heard all the rude remarks, the bullshit comments, and reflected on the contradictory situations that have infected her personal life as well.

I know there are things that make me happy (writing, reading, photography, painting, research – yes, research people, I like to learn things, good food, cooking, occasional video-gaming, music) but I do such a poor job of integrating them into my life.  And as of late, I haven’t had the energy to meld them to my daily routine.  I used to listen to music every morning.  Jonathan can attest to this.  I would wake up in the morning, take my shower, begin my make-up and hair routine, while listening to music.  I would occasionally dance around the apartment, singing and making a fool of myself, and it would instantly put me in good mood for the day.  Somehow even that simple thing has dropped off.  Same with waking up extra early to get in a few good hours of reading.  I drag in the morning because it means facing what I know will be a tedious day.  But then again, self-fulfilling prophecy plays an important role…

The philosophy of life.

The past few days have left me pondering life.  What do we live for?  Who do we live for?  Why do we go through all of it?  That greatest clichéd question of: what is the meaning of life?  I think people always assume it is some profound unanswered question that the Almighty will tell us when we reach the pearly gates, but I think the truth is something far more simple, but still harder to understand.  What if the meaning of life is simply to live.  But then it spirals into “what is living?”  But even more truth comes from that: living is how we define it.  If you are unhappy with your life, is it not true that it means we are unhappy with what we are doing.  There are obligations, societal rules, certain responsibilities that we cannot put off, however, who says there is only one way to go about accomplishing those things?  How come there is such a precedent on making money, but 90% of the people you ask dislike how they come about getting their money.  But it still leads me to question how people can combine their greatest pleasures with the requirements of life.  Not everything is easy, even though they say that doing what you love means you never have to work a day in your life.  But what if you love photography, writing, drawing, or any other art where you have to work your way through the trials and errors of editors and agents?  While you enjoy making your art, you still have to provide for yourself and loved ones.  So you spend countless hours, days, months, and years working towards that big break where you can get paid for your passion by doing what?  Working menial jobs, hitting your head against the wall wondering why, why, why do I have to do this?  Will you feel more accomplished since you climbed the rungs of the ladder one tormented step at a time, or will you look back and loathe the experience?  The saying goes life is not about the destination, but the journey.  Do we take the straightest, quickest, most manageable route, or should we wind through the mountains, taking in all the scenes, the possibilities, the experiences?  And if we do, and it takes longer than expected, do we have the support from friends and family if we have to double back because we landed ourselves in a dead-end?

Metaphorically or not, life is about living, about finding what makes us smile and laugh and brings us joy and love and experience; trial and error help with these things, but knowing oneself, truly looking in the mirror and seeing not only all the beneficial, beautiful things, but also the not-so-pretty, the things we want to change, aid us in our travels.  Waxing intellectual but providing no advice, I guess maybe this post is more of a practice in writing out what I think.  Maybe looking for an answer from someone else.  Compare and contrast, like we did in grade school.

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. Execute.

For about two weeks I have watched Lost with a friend of mine.  He suggested it after I complained about wanting a television show to watch.  When I asked him to sell it to me and not just say it was awesome (like so many have done before him) he began listing off very favorable qualities, in my eyes.  Character development was his first high point, and to a girl who loves the Russians and any novel that delves into the human psyche, this was a rather important selling point.  The next was the religious allusions.  I was a religious studies major in college (though I am not sure he knew that) and any type of religious inference in novels or movies or music hook, line and sink me, so to speak.  The next was how highly symbolic it was.  Even having just watched the first season, it is easy to understand why so many people discuss the show.  With relatively few visuals (let’s face it, they are on an island and you can either see the ocean or the jungle) the show still manages to intrigue because of the characters and their interactions.  I am beginning to believe that who you choose to love on the show reflects a deeper sense of who you are and what is important to you.  Though there are plenty of secrets, the rounding out of the characters has a heartwarming effect.  I am sure that when the show went off the air people felt a great loss.  It’s similar to having a favorite member of the Friends clan, but on a more intellectual level.   And the last selling point: it’s a great mystery.  A suspense definitely builds throughout the episodes that carries over to entire seasons.  I have kept joking about how it is King Kong fighting a dinosaur or some other terribly elusive beast (I believe my latest theory is Predator due to its invisible black wisp appearance), but the truth is that no matter what it is, it has me hooked.  (I call this “The Village” effect; remember M. Night Shyamalan’s massive flop and how once you figured it out the movie just SUCKED?  Well, I liked the movie, even though I knew the ending.  It didn’t detract from my enjoyment.  I already know it doesn’t have the “Jeepers Creepers” syndrome, because I have seen it and it hasn’t detracted from its mystery and/or fear factor.)

One of the things that I absolutely love in Lost is the symbolism.  I already discussed the moment where John Locke is in the first rain and how it was this moment of rebirth.  Sawyer is another character who had a highly symbolic moment in terms of new self.  There is a moment where he is sitting in the hulk of the plane reading a letter.  The jungle is behind him, along with the setting sun, and he is leaning into the curve of the hulk.  It is a womb if I ever saw one.  The difference between Locke’s rebirth and Sawyer’s is the metaphorical implications, as well as time.  Locke has his pain, his anger, his old life washed away in the rain.  The island baptizes him, which is why he feels such a connection to the place.  He is the one character who does not want to leave.  Sawyer’s is a matter of gestation.  He is literally in the womb and growing into a new person.  He is still a self-centered, redneck ass, but he is slowly changing and developing.  This type of character mutation occurs with others on the island.  Another of my favorite moments comes when we begin to learn more about Charlie and his heroin addiction.  In the episode Locke tells Charlie about how a moth emerges from a cocoon and how the only way that the moth can survive is if he goes through the process of fighting his way through the hard shell.  The act strengthens the moth giving him a higher chance of survival.  I remember seeing that moment and just having it hit me full force in the chest.  It was simple and brilliant.  I identified with not only Charlie, but the moth (obviously, because it was clear that Charlie identified with the moth).

An emerging theme in the latest episodes (that I have seen, so please no spoilers!) is the idea of faith versus science.  Locke versus Jack.  Do we trust the unknown or do we look for answers no matter the cost?  It is remarkable that I see these episodes a few days after discussing my basis of religion and spirituality.  I believe science and faith have a symbiotic relationship.  Faith always produces questions which produce science and research which then produces more questions.  One of my favorite song lyrics comes from “For The Best” by Straylight Run and hits upon this concept: “And now faith is replaced with a logic so cold, I disregarded what I was now that I’m older.  And I know much more than I did back then, but the more I learn, the more I can’t understand.”  This song has always spoken so eloquently to me on the concept of understanding spirituality and self.  It’s a heartbreaking song, to be sure, but the words echo some of my deepest and darkest thoughts.

This brings me back to thoughts on destiny, fate, and the mystical.  Coincidence in its empirical form is non-existent.  The understanding of numbers and repetition teaches us that there is no such thing as coincidence.  However, without that information, without the research, coincidence becomes something of a mystery, a fascinating concept that sparks interest and thought on the nature of the things (the world, ourselves, others, etc.).  What is more important?  Knowing everything and taking away the excitement, the hope, or moving through life with faith that something good is always around the corner?  Optimism, in laymen’s terms, or pessimism?  I am not sure that these thoughts can ever be fully ironed out, though.  I am a pessimist through and through.  I honestly believe that the negative will happen long before the positive.  However, I do have hope that the positive will come, that the right will always win out, that Vader will not kill Luke.  It really begs to question how cynicism and pessimism differ.  These themes are ones that appear in many forms of art and entertainment.  However, I think Lost did a better job of depicting it.  Rather than burying them in overlong dialogue or action sequences, they put them out there in stark contrast.  Especially this idea of faith versus science and where it develops into relying on cold, hard facts or hope.  Imagine if you were a character on Lost, where would you fall?  And out of the characters on Lost who do you love?  Think about it.

What do you see?

There is this painting that my mom did when she was in her twenties.  It used to hang in the master bedroom, but when my parents decided to repaint everything, they took it down and never put it back up.  It is currently sitting on a dresser in the room I am staying in.  It’s one of my favorite pieces of artwork.  It is obscure and geometrically based.  When I was younger I always used to ask her what it was, and she would turn the question around and ask what I thought it was.  I would stare at the red and orange blocks, the white light, the ominous looking blues and greens, the arch of color tying everything together.  I have come to two conclusions throughout the years about what image I see.  At first glance I see a cross.  It is a symbol of faith.  At the base of the geometric shapes that make up the cross, there are strokes of white paint.  Almost like a reverse halo.  Upon further observation, I see a door that the cross is blocking.  Now, depending on who you are, you can either see that as faith holding you back, or faith helping to close a door to the past.  In the many years that I have looked at this painting I have vacillated between those two interpretations.

When I was in high school I had a strong belief system in Christianity.  But there were experiences that began a chain of events that ultimately led to me not having belief in religion.  Notice I said religion, not faith or spirituality.  I am spiritual.  I acknowledge an otherness.  I just have no confidence in a single religion, and their rules and regulations, as the right thing.  There is a quote from the movie Stigmata that really helped solidify my thoughts.  It spoke to me because it eloquently said everything I wanted: “Jesus said, ‘The Kingdom of God is inside you, and all around you, not in mansions of wood and stone. Split a piece of wood, and I am there, lift a stone, and you will find me.‘”  Aside from not believing in Jesus (that’s right, I am not a Christian, because I do not actually believe Jesus was the son of God, just a prophetic man) the quote hits upon a basic pillar of my belief system.  The miraculous is all around us.  It is in the grass, the way the wind blows, how the some people’s eyes are green and how some are brown.  People can call it ecology, evolution, genetics, whatever, but there was something instrumental in originating it all, and that is the miracle.  And there is something grand in how these things come together in chemical and molecular compounds.  Ironically, science is faiths best friend.  You may disprove the notions of Creationism, or science may act to disprove biblical stories, but there is something otherworldly in how this all came about.

After the experiences of the past year, when I look at the painting I see faith helping close a door.  I am not praying to God to guide me through this.  I cannot fathom a single entity that is responsible for everything.  Rather, I base my faith in positive thought.  There is something outside the human experience, and it’s all around us and in us, but because we ask for help does not necessarily mean it is going to come in a neat package.  I see help in the friends who have reached out to me.  I see help in my parents and their willingness to house me through this.  I see the miraculous in the opportunities that are now before me.  I know when my mom painted it she was going through a rather difficult time in her life.  It is a comfort seeing it sit next to my bed.  Building blocks converging to make a symbol of faith.  One that is helping shut a door to an uncomfortable and traumatic past.

Discussing discussions.

Our family is a unique combination of scientific and artistic intellect.  Whenever we have discussions we manage to devolve into arguments, tears, and raised voices.  There is a stubborn streak in each of our personalities that clash drastically when we discuss, nay argue, about things.  We are so immobile in our beliefs that we manage to not even be able to agree to disagree.  When we are all together, we act like a bunch of idiots, making jokes and discussing some of the most bubble-gum of topics, however, we also have these discussions that go in-depth into each of our scientific, metaphysical, religious, artistic, and political thoughts.  It is very similar to how discussion sections in college were.  Throw out an argument and then defend it until the last breath with evidence.  These discussions not only round out our intellect, but they allow us to refine our ability to have healthy debate.  However, we always have the issue of how we actually talk.
As an English major I learned how important word choice is.  Making the decision to use  “blue” as an adjective versus “lapis lazuli” can have implications beyond the basic understanding of the color.  For example, “lapis lazuli” has biblical symbolism so it can have a greater connotation within the context of a story or subject.  As a result, I pay attention to words within arguments, discussions, suggestions, and written work.  To the scientific mind, or the relatively non-artistic individual, this is not something that is actively done.  And therefore, their understanding versus my understanding divides.  I see implication, I see symbolism, I see connotation, I see verbal discrepancy, and what it may mean in an overarching theme within the discussion.  It provides for some interesting conversation, and it also provides for some very loudly expressed opinions and premature tears.  And though we are all smart (you should seriously listen to us, it’s like a college course with theoretical discussion and practical application), we always manage to run into walls.  We always manage to insult one another.  And we always, always, always manage to leave the conversation fuming about this, that, and the other.
When my dad and I drove back from Davis, California at the beginning of April, we stopped in Ames, Iowa to visit my sister.  We came in on a Saturday night and left on a Sunday morning.  In the morning we went to Village Inn for breakfast.  The restaurant was insanely busy and we sat there waiting for our food for forty or so minutes.  We each were downing cups of coffee and discussing various subjects ranging from government to politics to public policy to school districts to novels and literature to movies.  It was one of the most enlightening conversations I had in a long time.  It felt like my mind had come alive again.  I have had more of these moments in the past six weeks than I had in the previous few years.  It felt like intellectualism had died and miraculously been brought back to life à la Lazarus.  I viewed this moment as a positive affirmation of my return to the Midwest.  I chose to look at it as a sign.  A good sign.

Noah says life is life.

I am listening to a crap load of music.  I am also reading The Name of the Wind.  And Watchmen.  And Perfect Fifths.  That’s right, I am in the middle of three novels.  The Name of the Wind is easy to read.  It is one of the most well written fantasy novels I have read, and it grabs you and does not let go.  Watchmen is a discussion on good and evil, and it has always been a beautiful testament to genius behind graphic novels.  Perfect Fifths is my own guilty pleasure, though I have no guilt in reading it.  I guess when I say guilty pleasure I am using it as a way to imply that it is a novel that focuses on a whimsy.  It is a discussion of growing up and love.  The confusing implications, the wonderful moments that make life an ever-changing, ever-present classroom.  It definitely has spoken to me on many levels.

I recently went to Barnes and Noble and wept internally at all the books I wanted but could not afford.  I need a job more than anything.  It will give me structure, it will give me income, and it will give me a purpose aside from this free-floating.  There has been something completely eye-opening in the last six months or so.  It feels like a second lease on life has been given to me.  The ability to create a life that I have always desired.  There is a part of me that feels guilty for thinking that still.  The life that I had lived was one that I desired, though it felt premature.  Still young, still desiring different life experiences, still wishing and hoping to move forward with childhood dreams, while at the same time rushing fast forward into adulthood.  With that dichotomy, it is hard to understand where true maturity lies.  You are behaving in a way that promotes an idealized future, but at the same time desiring those moments that any early twenties individual wants: going out and hanging out with friends, committing to experimentation in life desires, like living in a city or moving out of your comfort zone, taking your hobbies and attempting to create something real from them.  Though I loved, and still love, my ex in a way that cannot be touched by anyone, I feel – and yes, it makes me feel beyond guilty – relieved that I am free from those obligations.  THAT is where the immaturity lies.  Why did I accept the ring when I did not think he was ready?  Why did I push it knowing that there was a part of me that desired these experiences knowing when a marriage occurred, there was a lower chance of them happening?

I just got an e-mail from him saying he closed our joint checking account.  Even though I am confident in the decision we made to break-up, there are still moments, like receiving that e-mail, that can completely tear me down.  Six years.  Six years with him.  That is one-fourth of my life.  No matter how strong I feel, how confident I feel, a simple text or e-mail from him still destroys me momentarily and makes me lose my step.  If I ever see a friendship with him, I need to integrate him into my life gradually.  A text here or there, an e-mail that mentions a band he might like, anything to begin accepting his communication in a way that will not steam roll me.  It seems like such a long and arduous journey, and I know it will be, and I know it will be worth it, because no matter how our relationship ended, Jonathan is a great man.  I cannot see a life without him having a role in it, whether small or large, he has been my life for one-fourth of my years.  Admiration for him does not stop because of careless behavior we both exhibited.

The last five or so days have been some of the best in a long time.  I feel like I am coming alive again.  I feel confident and I feel like I am beginning to understand what desires and goals I have.  They feel like they are forming into a very real picture and I can accomplish them.  What sucks, however, is that I still run into issues when it comes to dealing with my family.  I have lived on my own, relatively speaking, for some seven years.  I am thankful that I have had a family that has been there for me during this time.  They opened their home to me and have had to deal with my odd behaviors, but at the same time I feel very close to the suffocating feeling I had while in high school.  I know they show their worry for me in their own ways, but at the same time, my frustration level has risen exponentially.  I know there are things I should be more courteous about, and I am at fault there, but there are also moments where I feel like my parents fail to see that I am almost twenty-five and have had to deal with very real issues before and have handled them in ways that benefit all parties, and most specifically by myself, without their help.  Life is a process, and they are further along than I am, and with that it affords knowledge, experience, and wisdom.  However, I have not had those experiences, and though I know they offer advice in their effort to help, it seems like they do not understand that I want to go through the motions, learn the movements, of this dance of life so that I can make my own judgments about what is right and wrong, what makes me happy, and what I can do when faced in a similar situation down the road and do not have them to pick and fight my battles.  My dad said to me earlier this week that he had to deal with things on his own because no one was there to help him and love him and offer advice, and I have that.  Because I have it, I should possess gratefulness.  I am grateful.  But I also am not soliciting advice from him.  I do not want to sit and listen to a forty-five minute lecture that details all the ways I think wrong and act wrong.  My mom always says that it is my father’s way of showing he loves me.  And I understand that, I do, but I also know that after so many times of hearing how I do everything wrong it just reaches a pitch point of not being able to handle anymore words thrown at me.  Living at home after being away creates its own problems.  Trapped in this middle ground of living as the adult you once were and dealing with the uncomfortable restraints you once experienced in high school and that my parents still imply despite the years.

When I moved back one of the first things I said to my mom was that I wanted to get a job, save the money and move out as soon as I could.  That is still a goal of mine.  I desire it for several of reasons.  But in this economically disastrous time, it is hard to carry out those goals.  I am not using that as a safety net.  I used to think that people who said that were just too damn lazy to make a real step forward.  But after applying to different places and signing up for every job website on the internet and sending in resumes and writing cover letters and trying to network, I am beginning to see it is a reality.  I am competing against men and women who have years of experience and higher qualifications than me who have been let go because of downsizing.  And I am a freaking English major.  Following the intellectual dreams of your past and then realizing the truth that it means relative poop in the “real” world is disheartening.  I am always told that I can find writing jobs, journalism and social media presentation, and I believe that is true.  They are the jobs I search out most often and apply for.  My background in terms of what I studied leaves me as an ideal candidate, however, I have little experience in that field.  I write this blog, and my music blog, but I have little to offer in terms of a portfolio.  An editor of the high school newspaper, a large quantity of written work from college, but since parting ways with the University of Iowa, my jobs have focused on shipping out small tubes of synthetic DNA.  Not a lot to do with writing.

I have read these two books my dad got me for Christmas about blogging.  I find them interesting and have highlighted and made notes about changes that need to be made and of important features, but I still feel overly hopeless when I sit down and begin making the necessary steps at advertising myself.  How many people are out there at this moment writing blogs and attempting to find work in this forum?  Quite a few, I imagine.  And as my own worst critic, I feel like my writing is sub-par.  I even have the Writer’s Market and have spent many days going through and circling the places that I can attempt freelance, and even sent in letters, resumes, and writing samples.  One day I am motivated and feel like the stars are aligning, and then days later I feel like Murphy’s Law is placed with a curse above my head.  The question becomes how I can have those positive vibes sustain themselves.

April showers bring May flowers…

It can only get better from here.  I have made up my mind and I am happy for the path I have chosen.  The only way I can benefit someone else is if I am confident in who I am and what I want.  I am slowly discovering an identity, my identity, and I feel a sense of relief.  And I feel the relief because I know the things I decide will help make my future.