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An Exercise in Gratitude

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It was a Friday, and I was in a bad mood. I had just been yelled at for a mistake I had made, and felt the anger behind the attack had gone too far. Desperate to be alone, I took a walk. My anger kept me from noticing the warmth in the air, or the perfect fluffy clouds above, or the deep blue of the sky- the kind of blue one usually only tends to see in October. I was angry, and that was all that mattered. “Calm down”, I muttered to myself every few minutes. “Calm down”. Broken glass glittered in the street gutter as cars zipped by, rolling along to various destinations. Tree branches swayed as a soft breeze picked up every few minutes, bringing with it the scent of freshly cut grass. And as I walked by a building for sale, a tiny yellow flower waved excitedly at me.

I stopped. Up until then I had only been paying attention to the angry sound my heels were making as they slapped against the pavement. This was different. I bent down and touched the flower. There was nothing especially remarkable about this flower- just a tiny deep yellow five petaled flower of a weed with a pink center, the whole of which was no bigger than my thumbnail. But I liked it. I was happy to see it. “Thank you,” I said, without really understanding why.

Nearby I could hear the sound of a drainage ditch. It was no creek or  river, but it was running water, and I could not resist its sound. Casting a shadow over it was some sort of willow, and it still had a few petals of blossoms stubbornly clinging to the tips of its branches- a bit late in season, I thought. At the time it had managed to scatter the majority of its petals to the ground all around it, and several were drifting like tiny boats downstream and under the street, on to parts unknown. I laughed. Tiny petals, and this beautiful tree, the sound of flowing water. “Thank you,” I said again to each in turn.

By this point I was looking. It was a beautiful day. Comfortable temperature, bright sunny sky, the odd cloud to make things interesting. The zip and energy of cars, the thump of small city life, the ageless calm of trees. And the green grass grows all around, evidenced by the scent that had now begun to tickle my nose. I smiled. “Thank you. Thank you, smell of cut grass. Thank you, bright sun. Thank you, blue sky. Thank you, fluffy clouds. Thank you, zippy cars. Thank you, warm air. Thank you, beautiful trees. Thank you, sound of running water. Thank you, broken glass that glitters in the light. Thank you, soft petals that fall from the trees. Thank you, tiny flower that caught my attention.” I’m walking, and looking, and thankful. Thank you, beautiful color on that woman’s shirt. Thank you, deep red soil. Thank you, tiny row of petunias the bank just planted. Thank you, smell of soil. Thank you, tiny acorns that the oak has scattered. I’m looking to thank, looking to love. It’s addicting. Thank you eyes, thank you nose, thank you feet, thank you hands, thank you heart, thank you life…

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7 rules for picking the perfect password

Rule 1: 12345 and letmein are not passwords. Those are welcome mats. Cute animal motif optional.

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Welcome hackers!

Rule 2: Birthdays, anniversaries, and things like that are banners that read “Welcome, friends, family, and all who know me well”. (Translation: “Here, kids, run up my bill on Google Play.”)

Rule 3: A neverending wellspring of inspiration for passwords are your favorite things. (If you began imagining Julie Andrews whirling around and singing while reading that, then it is *entirely* your fault. But I love you anyway.) Don’t pick obvious favorites, like your favorite food or your favorite hobby. Pick favorites that you might not have even thought of, like your favorite day of the week, favorite word, or favorite color, using a word that’s not red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, brown, or pink. Oh, so you had your car colored your favorite color? Well, look up what the manufacturer calls that color, and use that as a password.

(Side tip on picking favorites: don’t pick just any random favorite thing. Yes, you may like the beef sandwiches at your local cafe, but if you only go there because your girlfriend is always dragging you to that place, and it’s the only dish there that you can stomach, it’s not exactly a passionate favorite. Try picking your favorite Jolly Rancher name, or that NPC in your favorite game- you know, the one that you wish they’d let you attack?)

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Rule 4: Spice up your password a little. For now, let’s say you’ve decided to go with your favorite word, puffin, as a password. It’s not common, and most people probably wouldn’t know your favorite word, but it feels a little…unsafe, all alone and small like that. Let’s throw some numbers on the end, and make it harder for you to remember- I mean, harder for others to guess. No, no, no- NO BIRTHDAYS OR ANNIVERSARIES! Then how are you to remember? Favorites! String up your favorite numbers in a row, and you’ve added length and a little security to your password. So now your tiny “puffin” password  has become “puffin538611”. (Hmm. I just realized I don’t like the number 8. Might change that on the edit.)

Rule 5: Don’t forget caps on the first letter! It can be a little bit of a pain to remember it all the time, but if you make that standard across all your passwords, then it’s less of an issue, and something most people trying to access your account are likely to forget. You can also randomly capitalize, though that’s harder to remember.

Rule 6: Lazy way to come up with passwords, without reusing them- pick 10 favorite, hard-to-guess words with a minimum length of 6 letters. Pick two sets of favorite 3 to 4 digit numbers. Mix and match.
Example

puffin                                            538                                            611
oleoresin                                      3662                                          418
quilty                                            1976                                           200

(Yes, I like the word “oleoresin”. It’s exotic and weird and keeps the oils I buy from becoming rancid.)

Rule 7: Make a master hard copy list for yourself. Yes, using ink and paper. Crayon will do nicely too. But if you don’t live alone, or are the paranoid type, encrypt it so that only you can understand what’s on it. So “Puffin538611” might look like “⬆Favorite bird/favorite 3 digit number/2nd favorite 3 digit number”. Or you can write out the numbers if you prefer. This may actually be necessary if you chose to go with random capitalization, like “pUfFIn538611”. (Wow. Why is it that looking at that makes me feel like my finger was randomly glued to the SHIFT key? Ouch!)

Okay, who am I kidding? You might still get hacked. But make ’em work for it, okay?

How do you come up with passwords? Leave a message in the comments!

Songs

Let Me Have This Sorrow (song)

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I hear what you’re asking me

To give up all I feel right now

As I’ve always done before

But this time, feel is what I must do

 

Let me cry these tears

Pain as I’ve never known it

For once in my lifetime

Let me know my sorrow

I know that I’m strong

I know I’ll get over

But just for a moment

Let me have this sorrow

 

This feeling compels me

And I’m not ready yet to let it go

Don’t wanna be here

In this glad place you want

Can’t sorrow be beautiful, too?

 

Give me some time

When ready, I’ll come over

Don’t touch me right now

Don’t want to lean on your shoulder

Don’t beg me to change

Forget and start over

Leave me alone

Just me and this sorrow

 

They’ve come for us now

To make us depart

We only have a second ‘fore they tear us apart

Why is it wrong to say I want this?

Why is it wrong just to know this?

 

Don’t beg me to change

Forget and start over

Leave me alone

Just me and this sorrow

I know that I’m strong

And I know I’ll get over

But just for a moment

Let me have this sorrow

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The words aren’t coming easily

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Words lost in a storm

The words aren’t coming easily
Even though they mean so much to me
Fly away, fly away
Does flying far away feel better
Than staying here, staying together?
It’s a torch, boots, strong coat I need
Find words in a storm, be able to read
Read them aloud, and somehow then
They’ll return to me and I’ll use them again

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And here come the meteors

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Free write

My intentions weren’t so simple. Or were they? Something changed after the colors were poured into a plate and said hello to each other. Brush said she was interested in making something moving, but I told her I wasn’t in the mood. Besides, it was too much pressure. By that point, the scent of the paint had caught my nose, which always triggers the same feelings, albeit in different strengths. Desire. Worry. Uncertainty. Excitement. Happiness. Curiosity. Brush, who by that point I’d been rolling between my thumb and forefinger and dusting about my nose and chin, asked me if I was ready, as she was starting to get dizzy.

“Whee!” Brush laughed as I dipped her bristles into the colors. I’d always imagined she’d find the cold paint bracing, but she doesn’t complain, so she doesn’t seem to mind. Then it was time for left brain to sit back, like I often have to do when I write. It protested. “I understand the mechanics of the world better than right brain does,” it pointed out. “Yes,” I replied, “but you also get in the way. So stuck on the outer, and no faith in the inner. Besides, this isn’t about logic. I just don’t need you right now”. Left brain relented, making Brush laugh again. “So what are we doing?” Brush asked me, more to stir things up than actually wanting an answer.

“Play. We’re just playing.”

“Playing?”

“That’s right. Play, with you, me, right brain, and time.” I breathed in as left brain complained for having been left out. Brush and I reached out to the page, whispering hello as the paper came alive with color. And an idea came. “Let’s play with meteors.” And so we did.

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Fully me

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These things usually get named after I do them. But yes, here are the fingers that ask me to say something- and for once, it’s not about obligation. Doing this, keeping this blog, has scared the life out of me, as it’s forced me to realize exactly how much my perception of self inadequacy has affected how I look at things and what I do or won’t do. When I started this, I wanted to pretend that it was just a random issue and that I could eliminate it by forcing myself to act in spite of it. But it didn’t help, and now I’m thinking the reason why is because I refused to allow myself to see the full scope of the issue, and how it affects me in even little ways. “Well, it’s weird of me to say that, so I’ll change the subject.” “Well, who thinks like that? Maybe it’s best left unsaid.” And on. But looking at my sense of inadequacy squarely forced me to ask, “Why am I diluting myself?” If I were a bucket of intense blue paint, would I turn myself into a pale sky? If I were full fat milk, would I make myself 2%? Why am I turning my dark chocolate self into milk chocolate, watering down my full powered detergent?

That line of thinking made me realize how much I was diluting myself even on the inside. You know, those little thoughts and feelings you don’t like to admit to because they might mean you’re not as kind or smart or put together as you want to believe. Realizing how much of myself I wasn’t admitting to made me sad. “Do I dislike myself that much?” It didn’t feel like that was the case, because there was a lot about myself I really do like. But I became curious. If I wanted to see what my inadequacy looked like, maybe I had to know what I’d been avoiding. So I learned to do something I’d never liked doing before: writing honestly to myself.

At first, it was a little easier than I thought. Some topics, anyway. I’m the type where when a “small” infraction happens between me and someone else, I won’t say anything but it’ll nag at me inside until I remind myself how pointless it is and how stupid I am for mulling over it. So getting to write about it felt pretty good, at first. Then I had to come face to face with the fact that yes, I do have anger- pretty strong anger, no matter how much I wanted to pretend otherwise. And pettiness. And jealousy. Selfishness. Caring. Thoughtfulness. Hope. Happiness. Love. I went into this, keeping a barely hidden fear that doing this would make me realize what a horrible person I am for having so many negative things inside. But it had a different effect. I stood back and stared. I’m huge, complex. We are huge, and complex. How can I feel like I’m inadequate, when at the time I take a real look, there is more to me than I can even measure? This giant creature we make up when we come together is made up of small pieces, sure, but none of them are missing anything. Me included.

That’s not to say I don’t have my battles with owning up to everything I am inside. There are times when I literally ask my diary: “Do I really have to talk about this?” I get embarrassed or ashamed, even when I know no one is reading. But once I get through and finish handling what’s going on at the moment, I get to have that feeling of observing myself, and there’s no shame there. There’s no embarrassment there. There’s just me, undiluted and complete.

Voice chats

It’s okay

It’s been a very very very long time since I’ve done one of these. (And yes, I hope that will be the last acknowledgement I make like that. Statements like that make me feel guilty.) But in a way, this also feels good to do. Maybe it’s like saying “Take that!” to my fears. Or, you know, maybe another wheel rotation. Either way’s good.

Free writes

Need for willful breathing

Ah. Ha.

Music has me again. I feel the voices, the notes soar. They might as well be tangible things, the way they skate across my skin as a curious insect might. Times like this, and breathing normally isn’t enough. Can I breathe notes in, as I breathe them out when the spirit moves me? This can’t be casually done. Come to me, music. They say we are what we eat. Right now, I want to be what I breathe. In and out. In and out.

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My grounding wire

I have a little habit that goes everywhere with me, and what could be the use of it is more than I can see…

The other day I was at the computer, thinking over an email, when I realized a paintbrush had found its way into my hands while I was thinking. As I had been painting earlier, its presence wasn’t altogether surprising, but I was wondering how I’d managed to sneak it into my hands without realizing it. As my fingertips fluffed the camel hair tip over and over again, I was lulled into a bit of a trance, and began to think back to where this habit first began.

Ever since I was a very little girl I’ve been drawn to soft, velvety textures. When I was about 3 I had been given a 20″ pink bear with velvety paws and a velvety muzzle. I took that bear everywhere, and I loved rubbing my face into her soft fur. Eventually I spilled juice on the bear in an attempt to share, and after her trip through the washing machine, she was never the same. But as it happened, my grandmother, who had given me the bear, happened to have another bear just like it, in tan. So whenever I went to her house, I would ask for the bear and would bury my cheek in its furry head as I watched TV or during naptime (but making sure not to feed any juice to this bear).

In pre-K our teacher once treated the class to a guessing game with real (albeit small) prizes. Once all the questions had been asked and the game was over, we were allowed to pick from among some small toys our teacher kept in a box. Being a little shy, I decided to go last, and when my turn came my teacher gave me a small sad smile and said, “Sorry, but it looks like all the good prizes were taken”. But when I looked, I found a tiny white bear wearing a wee red bow. Truth be told, it was one of those bears used for craft projects- it was the size of my (current) thumb, and a little dusty, but when I picked him up and felt the brushy texture of his fur, I immediately wanted him. I spent the rest of the day putting him up to my cheek and nuzzling him. Later that day, when my parents saw the bear, as well as my pride over having won the little guy, they were confused. “What are you so happy about? It’s a cheap little plastic bear; you could buy a pack of those for less than a dollar,” my father said as I showed it off to him. But he was soft and velvety and all mine. Eventually I lost him, and would collect many of these tiny fuzzy friends in different sizes, colors, and styles.

Fuzzy me! Squee!

And that’s how it’s been for a lot of my life. There’s something hypnotic about feeling velvet or brushes between my fingertips or on my hair, and I can remember more than one instance where I completely tuned out to what what happening around me or what was being said to me simply because of the sensations on my fingertips. The touch pulls me in, and I become aware of every little section and crevice being triggered as the fibers pull past them, over and over. It’s definitely a self soothing technique, though I’m also prone to doing it if I’m excited or pensive. I suppose you could say it helps keep me from feeling too overwhelmed by any emotion, good or bad, though I’m unlikely to do it if I’m already there.

That isn’t to say I’m not picky about it. I try to avoid wearing velvet clothing, not only because frankly it’s too darn hot, but also because all I’d want to do is feel the thing the whole darn day. There are certain brush textures I don’t like or have no reaction to, like synthetic brushes. Nylon brushes don’t trigger my skin at all, and plastic brushes are awful. It can make putting makeup on a challenge, which is why I only use synthetic brushes. Having someone apply makeup on my face using natural fiber brushes is almost dizzying, and actually somewhat unpleasant.

But there is no brush better than my own hair. Often people will comment on seeing me play with the ends of my hair, which essentially involves me lining up my ends into a makeshift brush and running my fingertips over them. With freshly cut ends the feeling is best, and often when I’ve just cut my hair I can’t keep my hands off it. Perhaps it’s for the best, or I might be walking about with tiny bears or sable brushes in my pockets, which are harder to explain away!

Any quirks to share? Feel free to comment below!

Free writes

Just to keep the keys clicking

Free write

I’ve overthought it again. And have done so for so long that this blog has remained quiet while I thought about it. And thought about it. And worried about it. And hated it. And forgot about it. It’s not what I want, but it helped me realize why I started, and how this is another rule that needs to change. I started this blog to punish myself. It was something I have done before, something I forced myself into, but gave up since I didn’t feel like I was enough for the task. This isn’t the first; it’s just the only one still alive. Starting under such a negative framework, where do I go from here?

Rewriting. It seems that’s what so much of the way I see things needs. A rewrite. I’m still operating under the rules of an old life manual, long past the time where the machines have broken down and all the rules have shown themselves to be obsolete. Worse, the rules were largely based on lies, or a very skewed perspective. I’m not going to argue if this basis for the new manual is perfect, but it’s definitely better, because it allows me to do things for the very reason I really wanted to start. Because there is love there, for communicating, for knowing my fingers aren’t making this pleasant noise against the keys simply for an odd music. I’m attracted to this, I love this, because I can do it, and fear needs to step aside.

This has taken me to a new place. I wasn’t expecting to assess so much of why I do what I do, but knowing that I can change this course has me feeling hopeful, in a very new way.