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.