TBH

Tell me you haven’t heard it a thousand times: “Thank god my twenties are over! What a nightmare. I’m so much more confident and happy with myself now. If only I would have known everything would be fine!” As fatigued as I’ve become of platitudinal remarks about a decade and its appropriate corresponding feeling, I still privately visit this one when my head is spinning with existential uncertainty.

I offered it up to my brother Andy once, like a pathetic crumb, during one of our panic-stricken gchats about how we want to do and be and feel more something. His response was something like:

Honestly those comments have never made me feel better. I interpret them as ‘Thank god I’m out of the phase where there is still hope for me to do something worthwhile. Now that my options are fewer, it’s a relief and I can blame my circumstances on my age instead of my decisions and just accept things as they are.’

Well, fuck.

Since I’m no stranger to the blurry line between contentment and complacency, this felt like a very comfortably horrifying explanation. Maybe Andy was right. Maybe people weren’t stumbling upon some enlightened state after living longer than us. Maybe they’d merely given up.

Luckily for our anxiety, this interpretation of the advice not only gave us permission to dismiss it completely but to spiral further because now this. shit. was. time. sensitive.

Bye, us.

My brother is in Panama right now and he’s texting me as I’m writing this.

Buzz. Beach photo.

Buzz. “Vacation is crazy.”

Buzz. “Time doesn’t exist and you’re not a loser when you don’t care.”

Surprisingly poignant given the current topic.

On the other side of this desire for more something is our confusion as to why we have it. Last night Ramey and I were talking about how tired we are of doing this dance. I’d had an unusually glum day and had been reveling in it while simultaneously denying myself the feeling because of how great my life is.

We laughed, almost sadistically, thinking about the number of times we’ve sat in a dark car or a dark restaurant or a dark living room listing off all the ways our lives were so amazing in an attempt to invalidate our listlessness. WHY DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO LIST THIS SHIT OUT? WHY CAN’T WE JUST FEEL GOOD WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT IT? We were shouting at each other with these bewildered looks on our faces and laughing and kind of crying inside probably.

This is me and always has been me. Can you be both stuck in your head and stuck above, observing it? On a podcast the other day I heard a woman cite metacognitive people as the most successful, but so often it feels like chasing my own tail.

Last month, like a new-year-new-me cliché, I started seeing a therapist to get some help in putting these contradictory pieces together. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of an unbiased party who was ethically and professionally forced to indulge my every psychological whim (*evil laughter*) and now felt as good a time as any.

Over the holidays when I told my mom I was going to have my first session the next week she scoffed good-naturedly, like only a mother could. “You don’t need a therapist. You’re already thinking about the right stuff. You’re just doing it too much. You need to meditate.”

I had to admit I agreed a teensy bit. Part of me had been thinking of this shadowy therapist figure as an extension of my journal. You know, if my journal could nod along and be like “Yeah. Totally. You’re brilliant. You’re right. This stuff can’t be solved. Can you be MY therapist?”

Maybe this fucked up version of “getting help” says a lot about me.

Now I’m four sessions deep and my vision of a talking journal has been flipped on its head. Although I’d joked beforehand that I was only in it for the validation, I quickly realized that’s what I was desperately trying to get away from. And after I stopped trying to convince her I was remarkably together and intelligent, I’ve found it to be some of the most honest reflection I’ve ever done. It’s felt, in its best moments, like I went from shouting in an echo chamber to walking outside.

When I asked her at the beginning of our second session to push me and question me and not let me move swiftly past the sticky parts that don’t support whatever agenda I’m subconsciously pushing, she said that was fine with this blank sort of smile.

I still don’t know if she likes me or thinks I’m totally annoying, but I find that kind of thrilling in a stereotypical fucked up way and it’s likely some twisted projection of how I feel about myself.

It’s shocking how quickly my narrative veers off its planned course when driven by an iron-will to not bullshit my listener, and it’s through this candor that she’s pinpointed in me a tendency to over-intellectualize my feelings.

(Lol @everyone reading this who is like “HAHAHA YA THINK?”)

When she would ask me how something made me feel, for instance, I kept launching into massively overwrought webs of pseudo-intellectual considerations that begged a million more questions and moved us a fraction as far as we could have moved had I just said: “It made me feel sad.”

It’s seriously Psychology 101, I know, but the simple answer isn’t something I’ve ever been comfortable giving, and I’ve suddenly found it exhilaratingly novel to allow myself that luxury. It’s been eye-opening to revisit some of my psychological hang-ups through this lens of avoiding complexity.

There is something refreshing about approaching hard questions with literal brevity, even if that brevity is “I have no clue.” There is a finality to it that is healthy for me. I am forced to be honest about who I am and resign myself to the unknown. Answering a question with five more does nothing for me but feed my ego. It’s intellectual masturbation.

All this got me thinking more about the thirty or forty-something trope of Newfound Acceptance I’d brought up to Andy. I’ve started to wonder if the comfort of getting older isn’t so much about becoming happy with your life out of some tired sense of resignation as it is finally being honest with yourself about who you are.

So much of my existential unrest over past years ties back to this sense of failed potential. A failure to follow every path possible. A failure to center my life around different parts of my personality. A failure to try harder to be someone I wasn’t. A failure to be more whimsical and short-sighted and spontaneous. I was always too rooted, too calculating, too careful. I hated that about myself.

And when I think back to the moments where I felt sick with indecision about what I did or didn’t want or should or shouldn’t want, an element of complexity was added because I was – and still occasionally am – entertaining so many different versions of myself.

Of course decisions were hard to make and feelings were hard to triangulate when I was struggling to even parse out who I wanted to be from who I actually am from who I realistically had the potential to be. There were too many layers and angles to consider. It was (and can still be) paralyzing.

For example, I spent years during and after college feeling upset that I majored in business instead of design or journalism or fashion or hell, even psychology. Why the hell did I have to be so practical?! What 17-year-old cares more about impressing their parents with their overdeveloped practicality than following their dreams or becoming an interesting human?! What the hell was wrong with me!? How could I have been such a shell of a person?!

I used to scream this stuff at myself so hatefully and get caught in this twisted shame spiral that served no purpose aside from turning my brain into a self-destructive punching bag.

It wasn’t until more recently that I started to consider that maybe my level-headed, logic-driven decision about college was an expression of one of my inherent strengths rather than a denial of some true creative identity I was failing to nurture. And the key to that switch in thinking was learning to let go of this alternate art-school version of myself that I’d held on to when I was young that hadn’t materialized in my adult self the way I imagined it should or could have. And then ultimately learning to be okay with that.

It makes sense that we hold onto versions of ourselves that may not be true simply because we want them to be true. Or because we are told that with blunt force we can be anybody we want to be.

But maybe part of getting older is learning to let some of those go and accepting the unique shapes of our personalities. Maybe when people say being young is a confusing mess it isn’t just because it’s hard to entertain so many possibilities, but because it’s hard to entertain so many possibilities when you still haven’t been honest with yourself about who you are and accepted that.

And I’m not talking about accepting our shitty, immature, unevolved qualities or entirely fixable shortcomings. I’m talking about being completely dead honest with ourselves about where our natures and affinities net out, rather than where we wish they did. And trusting what parts of ourselves we’ve either consciously or subconsciously chosen to nurture or let drive our lives.

It sounds so simple and obvious. Like something I’ve heard a thousand times, but it wasn’t until I started observing my own thought-patterns with a therapist that I was able to put some of these thoughts next to each other without sending myself around a paradoxical loop.

At my work we talk a lot about how constraints in design challenges actually force designers to be more creative and in that way allow them more freedom because they don’t have to constantly consider some nebulous set of conditions that aren’t established at the outset.

If we apply this to how we approach our identities and allow them to inform our decisions, maybe time and experience provide us with the tools to put up the proper constraints in our lives, thereby allowing us more freedom to be creative and enjoy ourselves. And these constraints don’t appear because the opportunities have passed us by (necessarily), but because we’ve learned to intentionally pass them by in pursuit of the opportunities that better suit us.

Maybe that’s what people mean when they act like their age has afforded them a new set of lungs. It’s actually a new set of boundaries. Maybe what time does is afford us a healthy dose of acceptance.

It may have taken me 1,873 words to get here, but I’ve either genuinely debunked Andy’s rebuttal or come up with a fantastic way to stave off future bouts of existential hand-wringing.

I don’t think it really matters which and, not to be corny, but so it goes.

 

Sometimes, lean back

I spent the end of 2015 feeling unusually present. When I say that you might think I went new-age: did yoga every morning, began a meditation practice, ate a shit-ton of quinoa, worshipped the sun for bringing me a beautiful new day every morning. LOOOOOL. Do cinnabons have quinoa?

I actually kind of did the opposite: I stopped trying so hard at life.

After a winter, spring, and summer of furious thinking and writing and creative output – all things that felt at the time like blissfully fulfilling ways to spend my time and energy – the fall found me worn down and a little tired of turning over ideas about how to be better.

The fatigue made sense on the face of it: my focus on self-improvement required near constant consideration of a figurative tomorrow, an alternate version of myself and my life that was somehow superior to the self and life I had in the present.

But what didn’t make sense was how this colorful and active lifestyle that felt like a thrilling and motivating realization of my true desires could leave me feeling so dangerously unsatisfied with the status quo. Those truths didn’t connect; they confused me.

Wanting more can be good. There is a lot about the way things are, on a micro and macro scale, that are worthy of my attention and dissatisfaction and critical eye. But what happens when that eye is cast like a nondiscriminatory blanket instead of like deliberate fingers on a piano? What if my desire for something more, perhaps the natural one for all humans, is applied so unilaterally it becomes a way of looking at the world?

Excitement for the future, of what could be, is a worthy and life-affirming emotion. But when that excitement became everything – when it overpowered (or worse, existed purely due to a lack of its counterpart) enjoyment of my present – I was in trouble.

Maybe we could move to New York! Maybe we could start a t-shirt line! Maybe we could throw this party! Maybe we could take this trip! Maybe we could start this zine! Maybe we could get into that event! Maybe we could learn this skill! Maybe we could start this tradition! Maybe we could buy this thing! Maybe we could write a book! Maybe we could get sponsored by this company! Maybe we could go to this show! Maybe we could meet this person! Maybe maybe maybe!

Imagination is a blast. It’s inspiring and thrilling and if the idea of an alternative future doesn’t get your ass moving and working hard I don’t know what does. A lot of shit gets done in this world because people dare to imagine what could be. The Future, as a concept, is part of makes youth or the proverbial beginning of something so fun. Everything ahead, anything possible. 26 seemed like as good a time as any to start dreaming as hard as I did. Any age is a good time to dream.

But at some point along the way, like a tired cliché, I forgot to cultivate and develop positive feelings for what I already had. My heart beat for the future.

Around September, heart beating out of my chest, I sat on the couch and cried to Austin for reasons I couldn’t pinpoint. My excitement mixed with fatigue began to register as listlessness and sadness. In some ways wanting, by definition, has to translate to lacking. I felt a deep dissatisfaction that made no sense when I turned it over.  Dreaming so hard started crushing me.

I remember driving up into the mountains that afternoon looking for answers. I wanted to put together a plan about how to feel better: another attempt to look forward to improve now. But no matter how hard I stared at the trees and scribbled in my notebook and listened to Bon Iver, my attempt fell flat. If Inspiration Point couldn’t get me there, I was doomed.

Seriously, that’s what the lookout I went to was called. I found it by chance and tried really hard – and failed – to see that as some meaningful sign.

Inspiration Point. Lol.

Inspiration Point. At least it’s pretty.

It might have taken me a few days to finally admit that I’d overextended myself. Once I did I had to dismantle and reroute some of my neurological pathways. If it was possible to dream too much, I’d managed it. And if you reframe “dreaming” to “looking at the grass on the other side” it makes a little more sense.

So I stopped. Or rather, I finally let myself stop.

I decided to focus, if only for a couple weeks, on what was already in front of me. This meant slowing down , dreaming less about what could be, and just living my life day-to-day. I accepted what I already had, which was as worthy of my love and attention as anything floating around in my head.

And what felt miraculous but maybe doesn’t seem so miraculous in hindsight is that my outlook inverted almost instantly. I allowed myself to be deeply satisfied with the way things were and shunned the nagging fear that gratitude might spell complacency, or worse, laziness. I allowed myself to imagine that maybe, just maybe, I could dig into my current situation and not just be okay with it but be captivated by it and imagine myself staying in it. I could fluff the pillows and love the pillows rather than search manically for the right way to replace them.

I listened to fewer podcasts. I read fewer news stories. I threw around fewer ideas. I volunteered a little less help and I made fewer plans. I did a little less shopping and I took a break from writing and from my blog. I dreamt a little less. Things that are fine and even great on their own, but are dangerous when done in exhaustive succession and without pause.

I focused a little more on my career and I spent a lot of time with my boyfriend and my cat and my family. I put on nice socks and danced around my kitchen. I watched a lot of Netflix. We moved back to San Francisco because we felt like it one weekend. Then my momentary deep breath turned into an exhale that stretched from a couple months into a season and into the next year.

Trying a little less and settling into my bones was a different kind of bliss. It was all the colors in the stupid rainbow.

When I say I slowed down I don’t mean I became a zombie. I didn’t sit down and stare at my walls, I just pulled them in a little bit and hung a poster up that said “DARE TO DREAM SMALL!” with a giant fluffy cat hanging from a teeny tiny tree.

It was almost as if seeking out a different “improved” life and a different “improved” me was this super cool hat I loved so much but that had begun to slump so heavy I’d gone blind to what was right in front of me. When I took it off and looked around, I wriggled my fingers and toes in amazement and reveled in trying my hand at the stuff actually within my reach. I cut myself a break and felt free.

I’m working a lot of metaphors here. It’s okay.

That’s not to say this little room with the cat poster is it for me. It’s not. I’m not done dreaming or wanting more for my life and myself. But what last year’s bout of burnout taught me was to be wary of letting my motivation blind me. If I’ll never be able to change the relationship between wanting and a perceived sense of lacking, it’s up to me to balance my appreciation of what is with my drive for what could be.

At the start of this new year I started to feel my feet jiggling again, my hands itching to create something, my brain ready to soak up something new. At first it scared me, like a shadow of dissatisfaction was once again tapping on my shoulder.

But I wouldn’t be me without my psychotic need for change and self-improvement and reinvention. It will behoove me, though, to not let that dreamy hat – no matter how beautiful and thrilling – slip over my eyes. If I do I’ll live the rest of my life fumbling around for a tomorrow that never comes. Being future-oriented is only worth it if I eventually…occasionally…let myself arrive there.

Maybe this year I’ll try my hand at both loving these walls and allowing myself to look beyond them. 

On happiness and a fool’s errand

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Our 7th grade teacher had given us each a slip of paper to write our answers and we all got to work with our pencils in silence. “Happy,” I wrote in stumpy block letters, thinking myself deeply and unusually intellectual for taking it there. A couple minutes later we read our answers aloud one by one and I was dismayed at the number of my peers who had written the same thing. I could only assume they’d copied my genius.

Realizing that happiness was a more worthy goal than, say, riches or fame, seemed like a big breakthrough at the time and it was something that stuck with me all the way through school. In fact it was during college that I became obsessed with the notion.

Every walk to class needed a soundtrack, every tree needed appreciating, every night needed reminiscing, every mild-mannered person needed cheering, every day needed to close with a hopeful journal entry. I remember writing down reasons I was “a generally happy person” on my old tumblr, as though people needed advice on the matter from a privileged white college student who was both financially and emotionally supported. Insufferable.

“She’s just really good at being happy,” I remember an old boyfriend writing in a letter to my parents, begging them to like him. (Not even this noble assessment of his convinced them, by the way.) I wore my happiness like a badge of honor and I needed everyone to stop in their tracks with me and tilt their faces towards the sun when a cloud happened to move at just the right moment. Everything was romance.

It wasn’t until I’d graduated and gone through some challenges that pushed my capacity to cheerily seek out the silver lining did I start to let go of – and even rage against – the idea that happiness was the ultimate goal.

Outside of the utopian bubble that was college, a lasting sense of well-being wasn’t as easy as a satisfying deep breath at the end of the day, nor should it have been. My life gained depth through a variety of experiences that weren’t all worthy of a syrupy journal entry. But still I often found myself scrambling for my old self, sure that I was a failure for losing my overly optimistic sensibilities.

I was recently looking through my writing from those first years out of college and re-lived the inner turmoil.

I don’t think I’ve been truly happy with my life and self for a long time. Not a long-term sustainable kind of happy. I’ve definitely had highs and a few moments of being content, but nothing that has really stuck. Nothing that has kept me warm at night and kept me waking up every day smiling. Nothing that has made me feel invincible to the conditions of life – like I could be happy no matter what. None of that. Fuck. Why am I not like that anymore? What happened to me?

Note the obsession with happiness. And a year later:

Tonight I laid on the carpet in the dark and listened to Everything is Talking by The Long Winters and felt all at once like a caricature of myself, but hoping that I could just stay in that warm and fuzzy place forever and not care about anything else ever again. I don’t care about anything.  I want to not. I like to not. All I need is this feeling.

 I really really really like not caring. I am much less concerned with being happy these days. Which is sad? But it’s honestly a nice change. I like the cozy little darkness that is my head these days.

Note the spiral into apathy. And 6 months later:

I feel so lost in some ways. Figuring out my identity…who I am, what I want. What defines me, what I want to define me. Where those two lists differ. Whether my wants are right or wrong. Whether to trust myself. How do I start to more actively live by the things I believe on deep/subconscious levels that take a serious sit-down to think about and sort out? How do I stop going through the motions and feeling fine? Feeling the emotions on a surface-level. Sure…this or that was fun. But how do I be alive inside my own head?

Note the dissatisfaction with previously-desired apathy. And another year later:

The profound loneliness that is just intrinsically part of “finding myself” can sometimes feel poetic, I’ll give it that much. But that pathetic little tear I produce in the middle of the night because I’m so utterly confused, so overwhelmed by the thousands of thoughts running through my brain? That tear doesn’t feel very nice when it’s running down my face, no matter how profound it may look in the movies. It feels sad.

 And maybe that’s it. Maybe this is all just a defense mechanism. Maybe “not feeling like myself” is just code for “I’m sad and thinking too much about it.” Maybe by defining sadness and discomfort as “not feeling like myself” I’m separating myself from it. Maybe I don’t want my personality to touch that shit with a ten-foot pole. Maybe I don’t want to get comfortable with it.

My relationship with happiness in college clearly haunted me in the years that followed. And when seeking it began to feel like a fool’s errand, what I failed to grasp for so long was that feeling a feeling isn’t an errand at all, it’s an effect. Happiness can be a choice in small moments and even from a zoomed out perspective, but attempting to always feel a certain way was robbing me of the present. The present which was inevitably moving me – either calmly or suddenly or subtly or violently – all over a massive and dynamic spectrum of human emotions. The very ones that define the human experience.

In a TED talk called What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?, behavioral economist Dan Ariely talks about what motivates humans to do what we do. I heard this snippet as part of a TED Radio Hour called The Meaning of Work, and this anecdote stuck with me.

If you think about it, there are all kinds of strange behaviors in the world around us. Think about something like mountaineering and mountain climbing. If you read books of people who climb mountains, difficult mountains, do you think that those books are full of moments of joy and happiness? No, they are full of misery. In fact, it’s all about frostbite and having difficult walking and difficulty breathing – cold, challenging circumstances. And if people were just trying to be happy, the moment they would get to the top, they would say: “This was a terrible mistake. I’ll never do it again. Instead, let me sit on a beach somewhere drinking mojitos.”

 But instead people go down and, after they recover, they go up again. And if you think about mountain climbing as an example, it suggests all kind of things. It suggests that we care about reaching the end, a peak. It suggests that we care about the fight, about the challenge. It suggests that there’s all kind of other things that motivate us to work or behave in all kinds of ways.

Of course! An interesting and worthwhile life is one that visits all the corners, pockets, cliffs, and peaks of the emotional spectrum. My desperation to stay in one static position was so intense that I’d built my entire identity around it. I’d laid the cement on happiness and stuck my feet in, sure that I could stay there forever if I just took a moment each day to let the sun warm my stupid, smiling face. When the tides of life inevitably shifted my ground everything felt wrong and I thought I’d lost myself. I wrote furiously in the middle of the night in search of my real self, my happy self.

But of course I was there all along. The problem was never that I wasn’t in a perpetual state of grounded bliss but that I was completely out of touch with reality. I’d aligned my internal self with the dreamy, romantic version of life I was sure I could hold on to forever with a little gumption. “HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE!!!“ I screamed at myself until I was too tired scream.

Happiness is one choice, yes, among millions of others. It turns out I’m as good at being happy as I am good at being any other emotion because that’s what it means to be alive.

The catch 22 of finding peace with this inevitability is that disruption is the beautiful and necessary counterpart to that peace. It’s an unsettling thought isn’t it? What if the point is just to participate? To participate and savor the dulcius ex asperis, the sweetness after difficulty, that will inevitably punctuate the experience of life on earth?

As Francois would remind me, instead of washing the dishes to get them done, I must wash the dishes to wash the dishes. Because the point of being alive is probably just to live.

Thank goodness I didn’t think of “alive” when I wrote out those stumpy block letters all those years ago or I still might be high off the smugness.

Emails with Francois

Francois and I used to work together and we struck up a friendship over a mutual interest in the seedy underbelly of our brains. We often disagree but, in his words, “make great sparring partners.”  My respect for Francois’ mind and accomplishments runs deep. He was always regarded as a wise and ingenious Creative Director around the studio (miles more than I ever was) and I would never claim to be on his level, but I think he took a liking to me because I was stupid enough to question his assertions. In turn he’s always kept me on my toes and given me new perspectives.

This week we got into an email debate on a topic I was considering writing about. At the end, I asked him if I could just paste our conversation instead and, luckily, he obliged. He had some really interesting things to say. If you have the stamina to finish this thing, I think we’d all get along.

On Sep 28, 2015 at 5:40 PM, Haley wrote:

Ellipsism

n. Sadness that you’ll never be able to know how history will turn out, that you’ll dutifully pass on the joke of being alive without ever learning the punchline – the name of the beneficiary of all human struggle, the sum of the final payout of every investment ever made in the future.

On Sep 28, 2015 at 9:27 PM, Francois wrote:

Maybe that’s part of the reason they name the exercise machine the elliptical?! Nice to get one of your provocative esoteric emails again.

Thoughts:

Philosophically rooted in capitalism and the destination as the reward instead of the journey. We can find ourselves at any point in history and find resolution…or conflict. Who said life has a beneficiary or punchline? The sum of a final payout of every investment ever made?! This sounds like someone from Wall Street had a moment of existentialism! The pervasive underlying assumption is that the only reward is embodied in a “thing” whether that be a climactic moment in time, a goal attained or some sort of physical object of desire. Not that these can’t be satisfying but it excludes the process which also brings great joy if you love what you do or the ability to savour and celebrate all the small moments in life instead of waiting for some level of epicness that somehow only happens when we’ve died?!

How do you find these obscurities. Distant cousin to solipsism perhaps.

On Sep 29, 2015 at 12:17 PM, Haley wrote:

My interpretation of ellipsism is that the punchline is proverbial…it’s not a single point in time necessarily nor would it be the same in every context. I don’t like the way the person wrote this, but I think I understand what they meant. Don’t take it so literally!

I think a person can both experience ellipsism and also follow your buddhist line of thinking that life is in the journey and not the destination (that was my senior quote by the way, thought I was pretty cool).

I spend a lot of time thinking about the future, where our society is going, when we’ll interact with other life forms….and I know you do too. It kind of punched me in the gut when I looked at this curiosity through ellipsism. Like, shit!! We will not live to answer so many of our questions.

I listened to your rec, Screen Time. Loved them! Particularly liked part 1, found it fascinating. Some of part 2 disappointed me.

Virtual movies? Virtual worlds? What if we miss all this?! In our time we’ve experienced the boom of the internet – which is amazing – but which is embroiled in intense growing pains…in the new social conflicts created by a different type of communication and we are all feeling the intense stress of it. The paradox of choice! We have the ability to know everything that’s going on in the world but can’t do that much with this information yet.

It’s very precious that we are all trying so hard. A little sad too.

Anyway…the future will always be compelling I know. But just because that’s always the case and it’s part of being human doesn’t mean it’s not still a little bit of a punch to the gut. To wonder so much about something but know you won’t be alive to see it. So much of being human is a punch to the gut.

Then again, I spent the morning listening to Christmas music and it seriously put me in the best mood. In so many ways I really am just a dumb animal.

On Sep 29, 2015 at 5:21 PM, Francois wrote:

In so many ways, you’re also one of the most brilliant and magnificent creatures around! You’re very good at walking the fine line between the narcissism of social media and the self aware wisdom to laugh at its absurdity….indulging in the superficial fruits of the vanity fair yet never allowing it to define you. You’re also gifted with a super sharp bullshit meter which makes me laugh every time we talk about things  that trigger the eye roll.

Listening to Christmas music is healthy, I don’t do enough of it!!

“Sometimes, a smile can be the source of your joy.” I listen to Frank Sinatra’s Christmas song and get all sentimental and cheery and shit.

Talk about being punched in the gut, I watched “Cowspiracy ” on Netflix and felt so sickened by the world and myself. I wouldn’t recommend watching that unless you’re ready to abandon the comfort of not knowing.

While extra terrestrial life forms intrigue me, I’m still trying to figure out how we’ve become so disconnected to known life forms here. I was told by some IOT people that the future technologies will enable us to be closer and more one with the earth by enhancing out senses. Wtf dude? I guess the shamans in the Amazon rain forests had it all wrong. Maybe I need to get a pet like bug. I’ll send you a cat gif I came across, they’re such funny creatures.

You’ll live to see virtual movies and incredible media like that! They’re gonna happen really soon, they’re actually happening right now, just not mainstream yet. I know I come across a bit like a curmudgeonly luddite sometimes but I am really grateful for technology!

You have a knack for creating playlists. I’m not nearly as diligent, I just throw a bunch of things I like in a folder. I’m enjoying fall 15 nice work.

Maybe we are just animals playing a game at the end of the day. But what game do we choose to play ?

On Sep 30, 2015 at 3:18 PM, Haley wrote:

“Sometimes a smile can be the source of your joy.” Who said that? I remember reading the scientific proof of that somewhere. Cause/effect conundrum! Human bodies are totally insane. Did you know looking up also gives your brain a dopamine hit? So basically we should stop with the dramatic emails and just walk around outside smiling like idiots looking into the sky with christmas music in our ears.

First of all Cowspiracy is such a good movie name, second of all I think I’ll wait on that. Will wave my ignorance flag for just a while longer on the meat front. I watched Food Inc in college and remember going to this health food store all sanctimonious and smug…wait for it….once, as a result. Someone should do a study on the self-righteousness curve of people post-documentary viewing. Remember when everyone cared passionately about captive killer whales with every fiber in their being for like 20 minutes? LOL.

The above said, I really am a coward when it comes to learning about meat and stuff. I am weak. Did you know hot dogs are actually white and they dye them pink? That scarred me for like 3 weeks, tops.

Poor poor cows..

As for your nostalgia for Amazonian shamans, are you worried about being a past-romanticist/sensationalist? There was a lot of terrible shit going on in the past. I really liked the guest on Screen Time (part 1) who spoke about teaching computers to read our emotions so our comms with technology could stop being so soul-sucking. Her words, paraphrased: there is no point in trying to get people to stop text messaging. They are going to do it. So how can we improve this experience rather than try to reverse it?

Is “getting back to our roots” or “getting back in touch with the world” realistic beyond a personal shunning of society? Or worse: is it the existential equivalent to Trump’s goal to make america good again?! If reversing isn’t possible, shouldnt we instead iterate?

I don’t know. Society is all fucked up. But I like your assertion that even if life is a game, we get to pick what game we play. In that light, I’d say you’re probably right that we aren’t necessarily playing the right one.

I’m glad you like my fall playlist. My mood has considerably lifted with the overcast weather. I’m a freak, clouds just make me giddy.

p.s. loved your lowkey narcissism call-out. hahaha. touché!

On Sep 30, 2015 at 7:26 PM, Francois wrote:

I didn’t get a chance to write my last article for work. This isn’t it either…the article was gonna go blah blah blah about information diabetes and how we take in more information than we can process…just like in nutrition, it is not what we eat but what we process into our blood stream. Not that my emails are any type of rare precious fruits to be cherished but an acute mind like a strong metabolism is able to process information much more effectively and so it is without reserve that I unload long ramblings to you because it makes me smile to know most of it will be read and considered.

“Sometimes your joy can be the source of your smile but sometimes, your smile can be the source of your joy .” That was from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s totally about how the body’s physical state can inform the mind and emotions…btw, I am typing this looking up at a projection on the ceiling so i can get non-stop dopamine hits. Almost all of what we learn is through language (written or spoken) and while it’s incredible, it can only go so far. Some things can only be known through tactility and physiology. To quote mike tyson here because who else would I quote?  “Everyone has a strategy until they get punched in the face”…yes, we can theorize all we want until the body feels it…another form of processing.

I have sporadically thumbed through several of his books (thich nhat hanh, not mike tyson’s) and remembered from “the miracle of mindfulness” where he goes to explain that there is a correct way to wash the dishes and an incorrect way: 

(1) washing the dishes to get them done and (I prefer to pay someone if I can’t coerce)

(2) washing the dishes to wash the dishes. (the correct way)

I’ve taken from it that we should enjoy every moment of all experiences without an end goal as the reward…that the state of being is the reward…how you take care and attention in doing all things is the constant practice of living well. I am understanding this more as I am trying fix some poor guitar playing habits and realized that when you practice poorly, you just reinforce poor playing…you get better at being a bad guitarist…(not a BAD guitarist…) this would mean if we practice enjoying each moments in life, we would have lived a full life of enjoyment! Not just the handful of moments when we graduated college, got our first raise, got married, had our first kid, got divorced, etc etc.

I know a lot of the way we value and receive experiences is a result of how we’ve been trained to consume…there has to be a perpetual discontent that drives us to seek something new, greater and better is around the corner ( how else do they sell more?) and so we are not conditioned to enjoy or want what we have. We want more which translates into more money, things, experiences, cool friends, accomplishments…but rarely do we consider how more we can be cherishing and wanting what we have, doing less, experiencing less but more profoundly. 

I like your idea of doing a study on post-documentary self-righteousness!! That curve I imagine would spike as fast as it drops, like your one attempt which you openly admitted. Your self-awareness and honesty is both hilarious and disarming. That’s the problem, we’re all weak (and I’m the worst) and whatever truths we uncover that require us to change lifestyle choices that are demanding, we put on hold, dismiss or plug our ears and go “la la la!” 

Not to sound down on humans as pathetic and weak creatures of habit and whim, we are also incredibly capable of overcoming tremendous odds, changing and doing incredible, amazing things. Can I leave my urban lifestyle and go commune with nature? Probably not. Can I get people to be aware of the impact of their choices? Yes. Can I vote for what I want in this world by what I choose to buy? Yes. Can I give up leather jackets and bacon cheeseburgers? Maybe.. but.. not.. now… but it’s comforting to know our consumer choices are our ultimate power against the evil empire and we can do a little each day.

You should create a Christmas playlist to be listened to year round…name the playlist something like…”daily dose of dopamine” or “DDD”  Just please don’t put Beiber on it…pp-please d-don’t.

On Sep 30, 2015 at 7:43 PM, Haley wrote:

I was gonna let you finish, but Justin Bieber had the best christmas album of all time!

Tan mom and never nudes

suit – asos / shorts (hot pants?) – american apparel / shirt – & other stories / sunglasses – street vendor

If you’re wondering who is in the above photo, it’s me, peeking out at you beneath layers of brown chemicals engineered to trick you into thinking I’m an outdoorsy type.

When my sister Kelly suggested we get spray tans for her Bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs I was intrigued. Not only do I love being tan, but I’ve spent nearly all of my adult life indoors with the curtains drawn, polishing my fangs and plotting my next meal.*

Spray tans are associated with materialistic, shallow people – perhaps rightly so – but I was willing to identify with this stereotype in exchange for giving others one very brief impression I spend all of my time swimming in the ocean, drinking wine in the sun, and having heartfelt conversations under beachy sunsets. One of the less difficult sacrifices I’ve ever had to make.

Typical me under a palm tree

I’d never gotten one before so I asked Kelly to recommend a place. I deemed her qualified since she lives 3,000 miles away and has an internet connection. She told me which places near me had the best reviews and I was on my way.

The actual process of getting the tan required much more contortion than I suspected, but the middle-aged lady who sprayed me explained she was a veteran and I really didn’t want to disappoint her. Luckily, the movements resembled a slow-motion robot, a dance move I happen to personally excel at and use frequently to embarrass Austin in public places.

When I woke up the next morning I nearly lost it.  To say I resembled tan mom would only be a slight exaggeration. I immediately texted my cousin and sister, who’d also gotten sprayed the night before and they conceded they, too, looked ridiculously tan. They assured me it would fade and it did.

Oh this? Natural

But even before then the desensitization phenomenon was in full-force. Within 30 minutes I was thinking, “Hey, I don’t look that tan!” And this pattern continued as the 14 other women arrived to our rental house.

First time anyone saw me: Oh my god. YOU ARE SO TAN. *real lols*

30 minutes later without fail: Wait you actually look completely fine and normal.

Tan Sis strikes again!

At peace with my tan, 100% done with pale life

One of the unexpected perks of sporting a skin color several shades darker than my given one was this feeling that I was never actually exposed and was thus never called to cover myself up for emotional reassurance. I had no idea spray tans were the chemical equivalent of the comforting denim under-short of Tobias Funke. Please take note of this!

The feeling of wearing a full-coverage skin costume came in particular handy while spending two straight days drinking mimosas and eating chips in a swimsuit. I’d honestly never felt more tropical in my life, and I was in the desert during a severe drought.

The best part of the weekend, however, had nothing to do with sacrificing my morals and everything to do with crying several times about my sister and Matt getting married. One of her best friends put together a slide show of them to a guitar-strumming love song and we almost all had to stay in for the evening just to weep. Or was that just me? I’m simultaneously elated for them to get married and dreading crying for 6 hours straight. I’m so cliche.

Let’s finish this up on shallow ground: one-pieces. A lot of us were sporting them over the weekend and were aligned on their power and influence over us. If you’re currently in the market, I’d recommend Asos where you can find a one-piece in nearly every shape, color, and pattern. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on there, your taste is far more unique and special than mine and I admire you.

This leafy one was probably my favorite, but I love all my children equally. Also, if you’re justifying spending the money, keep in mind Man Repeller’s conjecture that swimsuits under shorts are the new shirts. I’m totally on board.

Here are some others I love, a few of which are already in my clutches.

*blood