Tuesday, November 23, 2010

who do you think you are?

We label ourselves a lot. I say the less, the better.

Labels are a way of having expectations for ourselves. "I'm the music guy," we say to ourselves. "I'm someone who dislikes carrot cake." "I'm bad at learning math." Well, what's really the point of having these phrases and labels?

Do they foster your identity -- locking you into a position you may later regret? Do they make you feel special? Do they give you an excuse for not trying, a sense of vindication when they are "proved" correct, a crutch for connecting with other people?

Let's look at each of the examples above.

"I'm the music guy."
This is a classic way to build an expectation in yourself. Maybe at one stage in life you were really good at playing or writing music, and you built part of your sense of self around this. It's great to recognize your strengths and to pursue them as you contribute to this wonderful world we're in, but it can also be a trap. What if one day you are not that good at music anymore, or you find someone much better than you? Any other aspects of yourself will probably seem pretty useless then, in your moment of dejection. Were you just a fake this whole time? Will you ever regain your place in the world?

Too bad you didn't cultivate a larger sense of self that allows for failing, for not being awesome at music! Hahaha, ok, this is a little extreme, but we all know people who get very legitimately worked up and brought down over finding themselves bereft of their "identity".

You are the only one who gets to determine how you identify yourself. Wouldn't you rather optimize this, so that you are just as happy being awesome at music as being not?

None of us are always going to be the best at any one thing.

This is not to say we should avoid pursuing greatness, hahaha, no no! We should definitely try our best, but let's play music well for the sake of playing music well, not to feel vindicated and justified for claiming ourselves to be superior to some other group of people. Hahaha, think of all those famous musicians who had the aim of playing good music, not of being the best musician.

Play music because it feels good, play music as a gift to your listeners. Don't play music so that you can breathe a sigh of relief because you are still probably "the music guy".

Hahaha, just a thought!

"I'm someone who dislikes carrot cake."
Alright, fine, the times you tried it you didn't like it as much as chocolate cake. But, well, we've all read Green Eggs and Ham, right? Give it another shot. And even if you still don't adore it, just experience what it is like to be eating it. Isn't that what you do when you eat chocolate cake, you just get really into the moment of consumption?

What is the point of disliking something (something non-harmful, at least)? What good does it do you or anyone else for you to be set in your mind that you will have a negative experience, a bad time, if you are made to eat a slice of carrot cake? All it does is make you grumpy when it happens. Why on earth make yourself grumpy??

I understand that most people have a lot of preferences. Given perfect freedom, you'd always enjoy the chocolate more than the carrot. But how do you KNOW that this is always true? And what does it gain you?

I used to not see the point of vanilla ice cream. Seriously, it's the base flavour of nearly every dessert, so it's like eating "blank" ice cream. But you know what, vanilla is an available flavour nearly everywhere. That many people can't all be wrong, right? Also, I don't want to be one of those old people who never stopped being 3 when it comes to food preferences. So now when faced with myriad ice creams, sometimes I'll get vanilla just to mix it up. Why not! I can savour it as much as the Turtle Fudge Sundae flavour, and it's my own fault if I fail to really get into it.

BONUS: if you're really good at avoiding the temptation of preferences, think how much easier life is when people decide on cake flavours for you? Or on other less-trivial things? Suddenly now you are able to just keep your peaceful, giggling mood, and not get upset or even just miffed that it's not precisely how you would have arranged things.

And maybe you'll realize that you don't even mind carrot cake so much anymore, and even sort of enjoy it.

"I'm bad at learning math."
This one might be trickier to spot, and has variations like, "I'll never be good at calculus." Well, not with that attitude! Sure, some things come more quickly than others, and it's great to recognize in what areas you'll need to put more effort.

But there's basically no point in convincing yourself that you're going to be bad at something. Like the inverse, where you pride yourself on your accomplishments, this is a way of defining your core identity that can be self-reinforcing and lead to expectations.

It's not part of the path to happiness. It won't really motivate you to try harder, it won't make you feel at ease when you go to math class, it won't set you up for breaking out of any future periods of difficulty.

Ok, it's great to be modest and humble, to express freely your weaknesses and sympathize with others who don't pick up math like a thief picking up your dropped wallet. But no need to lock yourself in to a self-defeating mindset! If you need to work a little harder, then work a little harder. That's all. Believe in yourself.

I have no way of defining myself now. Thanks.
That's kind of the goal, but not everyone will be completely comfortable with the notion.

There is no need to have a set identity. Nothing about us remains the same, over time, anyway. Emotions only last a few seconds, we change our minds all the time, our politics change as we age and experience the world, our health and finances affect our perceptions, a good exam grade or positive feedback from the boss can make a "lost cause" to seem beyond manageable.

So, if all of this is going to change anyway, why bother labelling yoursef when it will probably lead to disappointments and grumpiness? We connect to others best when we don't have cake-preferences and skillset views distracting us from really hearing and feeling what the other person is saying. Just laugh it off, and when people shake their heads and condescend with "You've changed," just shrug.

"We're always changing."


Follow-up reading: is there some part of us that doesn't change? One wise man's perspective.

Friday, November 19, 2010

are you special?

People all want to fit in, want to be respected and loved by the world for who they are, accepted. It feels great to be part of a community, to work together towards a common goal and participate alongside others. I like to think of it as us all being individual cells in a common, larger body -- I'm sure other people have found similar metaphors. Except maybe it's not even a metaphor at all, but how reality works!
The ego (in the Buddhist sense, not the Freudian sense) has a different aim; the ego wants us to be special, set apart, unique. To be (or at least be seen as) the most _____, the worst _____, the best _____, having the most extreme experiences -- and deserving extra attention for it. But setting oneself apart doesn't actually lead to long-term happiness. Instead it is a path leading only to isolation and that deep-seated agony because "no one understands you".

The drive to be special, to be separate, is a drive we all have to acknoledge and then ignore. Sure, for the greater good we can strive to be the best at, say, solving global warming or something, but the point should be solving the problem, not in happening to be #1 at it.

We like to think our experiences are pretty special. Why else would we get to experience them? Things are pretty intense, after all! Well, sure. And it's great to be so in the moment that what might otherwise be mundane feels fully profound. Being alive is supposed to be awesome and intense, even when just pouring milk over your cereal! But should this entitle you to extra attention or whatnot?

The short-term vindication of having your uniqueness acknowledged tends quickly to become both a craving for more of the same and a disorientation from the resulting separation from the rest of the community.

Hahaha, ok, this probably seems petty when talking about things like how you managed to blow out ALL your birthday candles on the first exhalation. I'll cut to the chase.

I too like to think I am a bit special. I am synaesthetic, so I hear my sense of touch, and see tastes and smells, etc. It's pretty cool I guess, took a while growing up before I realized how much this differs from the ordinary experience. Also, I'm smart (doing really well at school and scoring really well on those tests), I sometimes can do creative things kinda well, etc. And just this past week the doctors are saying I'm almost certainly epileptic.

I guess that makes me special!

But to get lost in the chatter of my mind, parading in the glow of self-congratulatory affirmation of how, fuck yes, I am pretty darn special, different from all those other people in substantial ways, etc., well, that doesn't do me any good. Not to say someone with amazing composition abilities should suddenly stop writing music just to blend in with the crowd. No, no, use your talents and skills and uniqueness to contribute to this place as best you can! Just don't except special treatment or let it get to your head.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: despite spending most of our teenage years looking for ways to set ourselves apart, it's a duty to ourselves, our sanity and our society to nod kindly to the ego, give it a head pat, and tuck it aside. It doesn't get you anywhere. Do your best, don't require or seek out recognition, and see that it's actually pretty great to reclaim your spot alongside everyone else as an Awesome Human.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Have you heard of Rosey Grier? No? Don't google him; I've made a fact sheet with all you really need to know:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

secret to always having fun at parties

Two nights ago was the law school's Hallowe'en party, and last night's was for the Nicholas School of the Environment. Let's compare a bit.
  • Law: Set at a proper club with legitimate bouncers, people checking IDs at the door, multiple bartenders, excellent sound system. Nic: Set in a forest maintenance shed off a gravel road off a little-used long driveway, some chick taking tickets/cash on the gravel road, open kegs and bags of wine floating about (people bringing their own mugs or glass jars), a low-key DJ.
  • Law: 65% men. Nic: 80% women.
  • Law: students only. Nic: a prof showed up with a bottle of Jack as part of his costume -- he apparently stayed all the way til 2am.
  • Law: proper bathrooms at the facility. Nic: one porta-potty ("it's actually clean and fully stocked with toilet paper!") but most people just went in the woods or around the back of the maintenance shed.
  • Law: I already knew virtually everyone there. Nic: I had only previously met 5 of the attendees.
 I wouldn't say one was definitely way better than the other. I went as a dirty hippie (I know, I know, hardly a costume for me), and was "in character" too. It was a great experience to be at these huge gatherings practicing being mellow and chilled out and blissed.


So how to have a great time at parties? Even at the Nic party, where I knew next to nobody, I had a BLAST!
  • I had decided in advance that I was going to be in a great, happy, indefatigable mood. 
  • I didn't care what people thought of me when I was mingling with strangers who didn't particularly welcome me into their little dance circles. That's cool!
  • I laughed ALL THE TIME, just a fun, why-not laugh, head thrown back in glee! 
  • If I saw someone in a great costume or just really well-dressed or good looking (men and women) I'd say so! I'd walk right up and say "you look aMAZing!" and make happy eye-contact and laugh and prance!
  • I didn't talk to anyone for too long in a row, always just flitting around and coming back and bouncing off and laughing back.
  • If someone invited me to dance in a different corner, or go get a drink just then, or step to a quieter part of the place, etc, I said yes! People love it when you take them up on offers!
Not everyone is gonna like you, and that's completely fine! Doesn't mean you have to dislike them because of it, hahaha, no point in being bitter or petty in this short, beautiful life!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

beautiful life!

An earlier internet influence/happiness guru of mine, the fabulous Davey Wavey, writes about finding beauty in every moment, every activity, every view his eyes take in. Even things like disabused garbage cans and cloudy, thirsty Sunday afternoons. (Davey also talks about loving everyone -- most importantly yourself, being in the moment, and gay rights. Check him out!)

My drive to school is super beautiful. This is apparent even without putting on Buddhist glasses, but I try to appreciate it every time. It is about a 10-minute drive, 8 of which are through a magnificent Carolinian forest. Pictures fail to caputre its majesty:

Or another example: a cicada decided to come to our back porch and lay to rest one last time.

My dear friends Mac and Rocio from the last post host weekly Shabbat dinners on Fridays. Well, it's mostly Mac, who cooks a hearty, simple feast for whoever decides to join. Elijah gets a spot at the table as well. :D Mac told me just today that he only started cooking last summer! Phenomenal. He is also a singer/songwriter and plays a mean guitar. (You can just sort of see him behind Michael and Rocio on the left.)

I have only been able to make it to the one dinner so far, but it lasted from 7:30 til 5am (including 6-hour dance party). So generous of Mac! We provide the wine and the company (and the hungry tummies) and he does the rest, complete with traditional Jewish chanting, candle-lighting, bread-breaking and toasting! Beautiful.

But that was weeks ago, actually. And last week was our big house party! It didn't stop Katie and me from partying up the night before, though. We went to an S-themed party with people from her part of Duke (biomedical engineering PhDs). Katie wanted a group of us to go as skittles. She's in yellow, and I'm of course the one in red.

A dear friend on facebook saw another photo in this series and made a joke about "tasting the rainbow". Hahaha, very clever, CS.

Ok ok, then, after like 2 weeks of planning and 10 days of running all over town buying spirits, beer, wine, food, paper towels, etc, we had our party!!! The final facebook count said 88 yeses and a bunch more maybes. I estimate 100-120 visitors came to rock out:

It was all rather beautiful!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Experiment I: practicing happiness -- UPDATE

Here's a progress report. I made it through the first two days ok... though I fell alseep both times. I'd decided to start with a 5-minute mindfulness session first, to warm up, and then go for happiness.

It was fine, I suppose, but I wasn't as dedicated as I hoped. I had no routine, being in law school orientation and newly moved in, etc.

Then a whole week passed during which I felt guilty about not meditating, instead of actually doing it. Whoops!

Rather than have a sitting-time deficit intimidating me from ever finishing, I've decided to just start over, and this time I have a little routine going, both for it and in general. I also have a proper chair in my room so that I can sit up straight (instead of sitting poorly on a bed and within moments just lying down).

I find the feeling almost overwhelming, during the meditation. So wonderful! I'll detail my methods a bit later when I feel more prepared to explain them. The carry-over affect has been more subtle than it was when I started, say, mindfulness training, and it's coming through in slightly-unexpected ways.

I'll update again in another week or so.

STILL my bday!

Yesterday at Duke's Convocation (read: free booze party), a friend who couldn't make the big party last week wished me happy birthday, and proclaimed that this entire week is still to be considered my birthday.

This might be the longest bday fest yet! Looking at 23 days if we count her proclamation!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Experiment I: practicing happiness

A year or two ago I realized that I had actually figured out how to be happy. Like, how to go from blasé or even just plain grumpy to a place of downright satisfaction.

The answer, of course, is not through some sort of temporary cravings appeasement or gratification.

The thing is, I only rarely get around to making myself happy like this! Sort of dumb, really. So I'm going to do an experiment, along the lines of an online inspiration of mine, and try to track some of the progress and results here. (tIC does this well, too!)

The Experiment
Every day for the next 30 days I will take at least 10 minutes to practice a form of meditation that we'll call "happiness meditation". Just practicing being content and satisfied! If I miss a day, I'll make it up the next day.

I've found with other meditation that there is a significant flow-on effect, whereby whatever I was practicing while sitting continues to occur over the next several hours. Part is that training the mind during meditation actually works (hence "practice") and part is that I tend to meditate in little 5 or 30 or 60 second intervals even when I don't "have to", if I have been meditating a lot during that general period.

So hopefully I'll be happier overall, as well as occasionally finding myself slipping into bonus meditative periods.

Friday, August 13, 2010

presence: the bday "present" (har har)

Well, dear faithful blog reader(s), let's continue our story. I'm typing this on the road, having driven about 10 of the 16 wheelhours required to move to Duke University for my last semester of law school!

Actually, let me tell you about where I'm staying tonight, because it's pretty awesome. I don't mind long solitary car trips that much at all, except that sometimes I get stiff sitting in more or less the same position for hours and hours and hours. But the scenery is gorgeous, and it's excellent thinking time.

Often I write up a little list of topics to ponder, giving each maybe half an hour. Music off, mind-chatter still, just a nice calm driving meditation.

I wasn't going to make the whole way today, so I decided I'd stay the night at a place sure to be especially gorgeous: West Virginia. Somewhere in central Indiana (a state that took A LONG TIME to drive through) I stopped here

and took a moment to select my lodgings for ce soir. I wanted a motel, just off the freeway somewhere in WV, cheap. Not much is cheaper than the Red Roof Inn. $59.99 for a non-smoking room sounded great.

Then my iphone wigged out on me and I could NOT for the life of me find the place. First I went to the wrong part of Huntington, and really really really had to pee but was instead standing around a parking lot right by the river hearing Travis Tritt in live concert, echoing into the warm August evening hills.

I nearly died several times finding the actual location, so many surprise red lights and sharp turns and piled up traffic! But you know it's going to be good when it feels like a magical trek to get somewhere.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I think "$60/night motel" and "Red Roof Inn" and so on, I don't think "comfort" or "quality". More along the lines of "hopefully serviceable". But let me tell you, there is just so much RIGHT about this place!

First, the guy at the front counter, having fielded some half dozen increasingly-angsty calls patiently confirming the establishment's location, was beaming like an angel when I arrived. Chubby-cheeked Russ, he's a legend. I have never seen so many pearly teeth all smiling steady. Excellent! Happy people!

Courteous people!

Well, the room is massive. Two double beds! And they are very comfy. I'm pretty fucking hardcore as you obviously know, and the first thing I did once I got settled here was do a 90-minute yoga session. Because you know what? This place not only has two beds, a pleather armchair, a desk, drawers and a safe, but it also has PLENTY of room for yoga.

I even could do headstand practice right there, without having to squish or turn to go against a bed or something!

Ok so that was great. Then I needed a shower. Sometimes you sort of resist going into the WC in cheap hotels, fearful of what you might find if you turn on all the lights. This bathroom is small, sure, but NEAT! Floorboards (probably plastic but they look real)!!! And one of those convex shower curtain bars that makes the shower so much more spacious! The soap smelled so good -- SO GOOD -- that I broke off a small piece to use and saved the rest for myself for another day. That's fucking RARE.

Next, the area was so clean that I actually took a bath. I took a goddamn bath in the cheap-ass motel bathroom, and it felt GREAT. Happy bday, self!!! <3 style="font-style: italic;">tasteful decor? (Given the circumstances...)

Maybe I'm delirious from driving so much, and maybe I contracted some sort of fungus or pathogen in the tub and my car is being robbed as I type, but I gotta say that this place is pretty fucking rad.

(Oh, and free wifi, need I even mention!)

A+, Would Lodge Again.

I'll get back to the frozen eggs and so on next time. Maybe. I dunno, ok here I'll just cut to the chase. Frozen eggs (still delicious -- his fridge was on the fritz):

Mushroom hunting with Chuk's quasi-gf:

(They're called "chicken of the woods" and their texture and taste are both IDENTICAL to those of chicken. We had some with dinner.)


This post was pretty indulgent, but I guess that's what you need to be expecting during the Birthday Festival: indulgence.

Stay tuned, and try not to get any (more) neck tattoos in the meantime.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

birthday festival without any packaging

If you're following my twitter, you've been flooded with self-congratulating tweets about all the awesomeness I've been experiencing for my birthday already. My actual bday isn't until the 14th (MARK YOUR CAL NOW, I'LL WAIT, GO DO IT) but as I learned in Australia, it's important to drag these things out from a one-day holiday into a multi-week festival.

Travelling a lot makes this pretty easy.

And as I learned from my estranged-but-still-lovely husband, it's appropriate to give oneself a bday gift as well.

The problem is that I don't like physical items. I have way too much stuff, too many clothes and toiletries and knicknacks and art supplies and decorations and yoga accessories and books and technology items and whatever. Or maybe it's that I have a normal amount but I just dislike having surplusses more than most. Plus I move around a lot and will move again within 6 months and this makes "stuff" unattractive.

What I do like is experiences, food, good company. A few hours playing Scrabble with some mates means more to me than any new clothes ever could. Hahaha this puts my parents at a loss, and in the end they did get me some things.

Well, so, ok, anyone reading this who wants to do something for my bday I'd love to just get a 2-line email, or draw me a picture (!!!), or if you're nearby come hang out for a few hours. That would be SO AWESOME!

Well the festival officially kicked off in New England where I met a dear friend and we had an adventure driving in the rain, getting coffee and yummy sushi, running around some bible college, and petting horses. Here's me with one of the horses later:

It was pretty rad. After sleeping like an angel in a huge comfy room at the horse place, one of my very best pals ever, Chuk, came to collect me.

His family farm is still one of the coolest places on earth, and I got to hang out with some pigs and chickens!

But Chuk doesn't live on the farm anymore. Instead he lives in Squalor. Hahaha. Sorry, love.

Chuk is a carpenter, probably the only Carleton-educated one in all of New England. Way brilliant for his trade.

Chuk: So I'm like a big fish in a small pond?
Me: No, you're like a whale in a bathtub.

See? He's vaulted the ceiling and will soon add three skylights. (The door is the front door, the room is the living room.) It's actually really neat seeing the house come along since I visited last December!

Well, Chuk and I hung out with his housemate and fellow tradie Jason, who plays a mean guitar. He's also a master painter.

I was slugging through some life lessons about expectations and disappointment and these two blokes set me straight, keeping me Present and In The Moment for three solid days. Thanks dudes! Talking about your woman-woes made me forget my man-troubles! Plus we just had a blast hiking around and doing nothing.

This is the best kind of birthday gift.

(Story will continue in a future post, including mushroom hunting and frozen eggs!)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

getting over nerves

A pair of flights will in a few hours deliver me unto Durham, NC, where I will for one week attend a "law preview" camp. Two months prior I was sent a textbook to read in preparation -- only a third has been consumed, due in part to finishing my last Australian semester. Pressure builds, my unpreparedness a burden on my piece of mind. Classes run from as early as 7:30 straight through to 5pm, leaving little time to catch up.

But beyond the legal nerdfest there is much to accomplish: a car is to be purchased, insurance obtained. I will be staying this week in the same condo I'll occupy during the coming semester, and details with my landlord will be settled. My sister-in-law gives her defense (PhD in computer science!) -- should I cut class to attend? Durham must be explored. And then the day after the course finishes I'll drive back to Wisconsin: 17 wheelhours through states I've never visited.

Last night a pit of tension filled my stomach, making dinner completely unappetizing.

Where did my piece of mind go? Why can't I take my own advice?


I realized last night I wasn't going to finish the textbook, so I just put it down! Felt so good! Next, I just watched my brain as I freaked out a little. If I really just watched my thoughts, felt my tensed tummy and shortened breath, then it all just seemed ridiculous and started to fade. I decided I didn't really care to be stressed out anymore, so set about not being stressed.

"Let's just see what happens in Durham," I said to myself. "I don't have to absolultely maximize the potential of every moment, after all. I'm not getting graded on this course. In fact, I don't even have to attend every class!"

Finally, I was able to say to myself, "I don't mind what happens on this trip."

A low, steady thrum was coming from outside: pounding rain. I saw the beauty of the cascading drops, undistracted by anything in next week's Durham, and giggled.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

things I've learned

My 28th birthday is fast approaching and I'm feeling exceptionally wise today as a result, so it's time to note down a whole bunch of things I've learned so far. Each of these points was forced upon me (though many were originally penned by others) after intense dismay, discomfort, and dissatisfaction. We only really learn when we're made uncomfortable, after all.

Actually, that's a great way to start.
  1. People only significantly change when they're uncomfortable. Next time you're miserable about something, figure out why you're down, and maybe you'll "level up" from the experience and gain a new skill.
  2. Everything is ok in the end; if it's not ok, it's not the end.
  3. Nothing really matters, not enough to cause extreme mental anguish anyway. This is a big call, I know, and someone could use this as a justification for apathy-based crimes, but the point is to know that whatever's troubling you probably won't trouble you later, looking back on it. This is rammed home to me every time I think back on "devatstaing" things that have happened that now seem just kinda silly.
  4. You almost never will regret reacting from love in a difficult situation, but you probably will regret reacting from hate or even an embittered apathy.
  5. Elenor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission", and it's true. You get to choose your reaction to every single thing that happens! Sure there are knee-jerk responses, but after a moment (or an hour...) you can calm down and get over it. It's your choice! You don't have to stay upset at anything! An important corollary: it's a simple mental decision to say, "No one can insult me." As in, "No one is able to insult me, because I just won't let their opinions matter." 
  6. Being upset about stuff sucks. It's miserable, by definition! The best way to stop suffering like that is to make it so whatever it was no longer makes you upset. The worst way is to maintain your position and try to make the other thing change.
  7. Life is all kinda ridiculous and often the very best reaction to have is to laugh at its ridiculousness. Especially handy as a replacement to road rage.
  8. Most people's reactions to most things have WAAAAAY more to do with whatever little delusions and distractions they've got going on than with any actual objective judgment. Think of how many times you've looked back to find you hadn't read an email properly or you'd misinterepreted someone. Next, consider that you're probably smarter than the average kid (right? right.) so imagine how many times OTHER people do this stuff!
  9. If someone is on a diet it's probably going to make them cranky. Bear with them. They're struggling through something, trying to improve themselves.
  10. If someone is being mean or rude to you, they probably aren't too happy themselves. Recognizing their suffering is the very best way to stop caring about their bad behavior. (Because remember #5 and #6 above: you don't need to stay upset.) 
  11. An easy way to be INSTANTLY HAPPIER: silently wish for the happiness of others. Doesn't matter who, so long as you simply wish them well, and don't want anything in return or in reward.
  12. The happiness derived from originally-disappointing circumstances is just as real and worthwhile as the happiness derived from stuff you assumed would make you happy. However, gratification is not the same thing as happiness. In fact, it is probably leading you in the opposite direction.
  13. It is possible to be happy/content/satisifed at any moment, in any circumstance, with any company. Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity and a lot of effort, but it's SO worth it. 
  14. It's possible to practice being happy. It's not easy (at first), but it totally can be learned! (Maybe a topic for a future post.)
  15. Unless you're satisfied with yourself alone and without distractions, you'll probably have a hard time being satisfied with yourself in a relaitonship. Or being satisfied with that other person. 
  16. Mom was right: it really is best to just be yourself towards others (so long as you're not a total jerkface). In the event that someone likes some façade you've shown them, how will you ever be sure they'll like you without the façade? What's the point of being friends with someone "cool" if they don't even really know or like who you actually are? You'll just feel like a fake the whole time anyway.
  17. To gain trust, you must first give trust.
  18. Expectations are a disease. The symptoms are universally awful, though they can be masked at first. Much more fun is to go into things with a blank mind and just see what happens!
  19. More specifically, expecting emotional energy (eg love, affection, flattery, etc) from others is never going to satisfy you. People are generally too stingy, and your capacity for craving even more is probably limitless. Conversely, those who do want to give to you normally want something in exchange (which makes them seem creepy or sleazy or just desperate). Instead, get your emotional energy from your "own" sources (eg the Universe, God, or just plain enjoying the fuck out of life -- see #13-14 above), and then give as freely as possible to others (see #11).
  20. You, my friend, are beautiful.
  21. Everyone has something interesting to teach you.
  22. People who make you genuinely upset are actually pretty rare. Think of all the people you meet in the world -- most are rather neutral. And you probably tend to stick around family and friends, whom you like. The random who gets you upset is a gift, because it is a great chance to practice not giving a shit.
  23. Don't mind what happens. Be interested, but just don't care if it ends up going this way or that. Remeber #2-4 in times of tension.
  24. However parents raised a child is probably going to be the initial knee-jerk way that child grows up to understand love. If the parents were picky perfectionists, the kid will later treat those she loves with suggestions for improvement. If the parents were sassy jokers, the kid will later use the same humor on his friends and romantic interests. And so on. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but it does help with understanding why a person might be "being mean" when you thought they thought you were cool.
  25. Think about all the things you'd rather be doing right now (eg hanging out in a beautiful park, making art, calling a friend). Now think about how you have actually spent your leisure time over the past few days (checking email, watching youtube videos, dicking around). Make sure that when you actually get to choose what to do, you're doing what you'd actually choose to do.
  26. It's an EXCELLENT investment to spent at least 10 minutes a week (TEN minutes a WEEK!) thinking about what your overall life philosophy is, and then thinking about how ideally to apply that in difficult or pending situations.
  27. It's really, really true that everything changes.
  28. The thing that changes the most is your mind. And the minds of others. This is not a bad thing, it just happens. Plus, if your mind doesn't change, you're not learning anything or you're not accounting for new information you've learned about your circumstances. If others change their minds, let them.
  29. Everyone just wants to be loved for who they are, accepted for who they are, respected for who they are. (See #16.) They also don't want to suffer. These two things go hand in hand and drive a TON of actions and attitudes. It is all very reasonable, though sometimes people have very convoluted or poorly-examined methods of acheiving these things (eg drugs, lashing out when miserable, pretending things). Have some compassion when people do stupid shit. Work to prevent it in yourself via #26. People respond pretty damn well when they feel respected.
  30. If you let it be ok for people to swindle and cheat you a little bit, so many problems, miseries, and bad relationships will evaporate. People are going to try doing this stuff anyway. Is not getting all worked up over something worth more than the $1.57 you were overcharged?
  31. People don't mature steadily. Many middle-aged people are still actually adolescents, and some 12-year-olds are as old and wise as the hills.
  32. Nothing is actually "bad" or "good" in the end (though it all is perfectly acceptable: see #2). The true and final consequences will never be known and will be different for everyone. You wouldn't be the cool dude/tte you are today without all that crap that happened to you in the past! In rough waters, take a more Taoist approach and just "see what happens" and you'll be much better off.
  33. People are better looking when they're happy and/or smiling.
  34. There are probably only something like 2000 different "archetypes" of people out there. You know how every now and then you run into someone who reminds you SO MUCH of someone else in looks and basic personality? Same base archetype. Once you learn how to get along with and understand and love one such person, you can apply that to all such people. (Don't get extreme and ignore anyone's uniqueness though!) Once you really Get all ~2000, you're pretty much set.
  35. Ghandi apparently would treat people as whom they wanted to be, were striving to be, and it was one of his best traits. That's pretty good advice!
  36. People tend to like others who laugh a lot (though not, like, a bitter laugh, or a mean laugh).
  37. Exercise makes you feel good! You don't have to be perfect about it either -- who the heck really cares if you don't do the FULL set/yoga routine/time length/distance? Just do something!
  38. If you're feeling really uncomfortable, or if you're craving sweets, you might actually just be  thirsty. Have a glass of water and see how you feel after a few moments.
  39. People don't like being told how to feel. Parents do this all the time: "What do you mean you're not tired enough for bed?" "You're not really hungry, you're just saying that." "Oh get over it, it's not that bad."  Try instead accepting how someone feels and, if you must, suggesting a way out of their unhappiness.
  40. If you just relax into life, and just try to be has loving and generous as you can towards others, things actually work out. You can do this, let yourself be vulnerable, and be ok. In fact, you'll be ROCKING.
So, as the old bilboards used to say, "Happiness: we're in it together." LET'S DO THIS THING!

Monday, July 12, 2010


My parents have a really beautiful house here. Outside of the study/office, where stray papers litter the glass-covered mahogany desk, and the bedrooms upstairs, where my brother's and my visiting possessions resemble an exploded fashion boutique, the place looks like a display home.

Everything matches. Everything is orderly. Clean. Serene. Lush.

Outside on the back deck elegant patio furniture graces a flower-lined haven, home to an oft-used large grill and several scores of paper wasps.

I've been watching them to see what they do as they mull about in the beautiful Wisconsin afternoons. Not much.

They certainly don't have any interest in pollinating, and they've never stung anyone in our household. They just seem to flit about, and when they need a break they buzz up under the benches somewhere.

Actually I lied, they do have an activity: freaking out my mother. She's not deathly allergic, but a sting would in theory make her puff up for several days and probably also hurt a bunch.

So I got down on the deck and shimmied about a bit on my back under the benches, and found 9 or 10 little wasp nests chilling out. I reported my findings to my parents and offered to remove the nests myself, that afternoon, so long as they watched me in case nature decided to reenact the end of My Girl.


It was in the 80s (about 30°C) with maybe 75% humidity, but this was about protecting my family! ...and destroying the homes of pleasant, well-mannered members of the delicate web of life that makes Wisconsin summers otherwise so fecund and enjoyable.

Using a paint scraper I pried every last nest from the benches' underbellies. I moved slowly after each act of insecticide so the innocent, hard-working creatures wouldn't know upon what to vent their grief and disappointment.

This is one of larger, unused nests. About half of the nests weren't active. Those that were active actually continued to interests the wasps, who merely did their waspian duties from the deck, right-side-up, instead of hanging from the nest, upside-down. A few hours later came a big lightning storm and lots of rain and hail, but the next day they were still using the dismounted hives, and some of the dudes were rebuilding in the same spots as where the old hives had been.

Or maybe they were just dumb and didn't notice the nests weren't there anymore.

Either way, my parents are soon going to spray the poor critters with something toxic, at which point they'll probably just move in to the benches at the house next door.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

sweet land of liberty

Coconut m&m's: tasty proof of America's dominance in the global fat-producing market. Personally I fail to find myself physically attracted to the green m&m, despite her white go-go boots and sassy long-lashed eyes. Good thing sex appeal is not the main part of Mars, Incorporated's advertisement campaign.

In other news I'm now on a waiting list for the iPhone. Hopefully tomorrow it'll come in, when I have a free mini-facial booked across the street from the Apple store. :D

My French foreign-exchange-sister-person invited me to stay with her in Paris during a time when I am also free, late July-early August. I spent way too many hours looking for any possible way to get there for under US$1000. Best I found was for $1060, going MKE to Newark, then Iceland Air to London, then a bus to a different London airport, then using Qantas frequent flyer miles (plus purchasing a few thousand extra) to get to Paris. It was something like 36 hours each way and I just sort of gave up after that. But I will find an economical way to see her within a year!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thought I'd join the masses

I'm getting my own blog rolling, maybe i will have a blogroll later as well!

A few days ago I flew back to the US, moving back here for "good", though really who knows where I'll be a few years from now -- or even a few days! Whatever. I don't really mind what happens. Or as I told Aussie mate RH, "I'm interested, but I just don't care."

I'm going to get an iPhone, a new one, hopefully today. I'll get a 16GB one. Then I will be up to speed with this modern world I guess I'm living in!

People ask if I'm relieved to be back in the US, or sad to leave Australia, etc. The answer is: not really! But not the opposite either. I'm just excited to be alive, basically! Every day is an adventure with wonderful things happening -- I figure anything can be wonderful given the right mindset. It's my job to find that mindset at every turn.

AND YOUR JOB TOO. You only get the one life. Why bother being miserable, seeing as how you have the option of instead being happy????

Here's a photo of some über-fancy food I had a few days before leaving Melbourne, to tide you over.