Underthecurrent


Easy Goodbyes
February 20, 2018, 7:50 pm
Filed under: unrelated thoughts

The letter is two pages, it reads “congratulations.”  This was a long time coming.  It’s… entertaining?… fitting?… to have it arrive in the last week and a half of this life.  One of the last pieces.  Surreal.

Celebrations with strong drinks and fancy hamburgers.  A lot of celebrations lately.

*

In the lobby, set down some board games with a note.  Never used, gifts maybe.  Released into the universe.

“What are you keeping?” They ask.  Strangers over an art project brunch where talking to strangers is the art project.  “Nothing really, some clothes.  Some things are stored overseas already.  A suitcase full of clothes will stay here with some friends.”

Yes, a couple of minimalist weirdos, not because it’s trendy, but because it’s lazy.  Moving things and having things is hard.

The hardest thing is the paperwork.  In this digital world, it takes a stack of paper to confirm who you are and what you’ve done.  Transcripts, degrees, certificates.  Old passports with visas stamped and stuck in.  Medical records.  Financial records (but, oh, which to keep in this world of indefinite audits).  The paperwork needs to be stored somewhere both very safe and somehow accessible.

*

People are always writing goodbye letters to this city, it’s a running joke.  The open letter inevitably talks about loving the city but the city letting them down – romantically, financially, or socially.  Not wanting to go but not being able to stay.  It’s easy to objectively commiserate.

We ended up staying a lot longer than intended.  There wouldn’t be much to write in an open letter because there isn’t a lot of angst or mixed emotion about leaving, it’s just time.

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Year of the Dog
February 18, 2018, 3:38 am
Filed under: unrelated thoughts

Chinese New Year is somehow okay weather and everything gets nicely busy, covered in red and gold.  Drinking TWG tea and eating forever; year of the dog.

“You should go now, before kids,” the doctor at the travel clinic says.  She’s silver haired and classic looking, a rad lady.  She talks about the ins and outs of things not to contract and the current zika recommendations.  Hands out maps and malarone.

This echos a lot of personal, recent thoughts about next steps:

But the members of Take Back Your Time were calling for something more radical than merely more time off. They sought to question our whole instrumental attitude towards time – the very idea that “getting more done” ought to be our focus in the first place. “You keep hearing people arguing that more time off might be good for the economy,” said John de Graaf, the not-even-slightly-relaxed 70-year-old filmmaker who is the organisation’s driving force. “But why should we have to justify life in terms of the economy? It makes no sense!”

One of the sneakier pitfalls of an efficiency-based attitude to time is that we start to feel pressured to use our leisure time “productively”, too – an attitude which implies that enjoying leisure for its own sake, which you might have assumed was the whole point of leisure, is somehow not quite enough. And so we find ourselves, for example, travelling to unfamiliar places not for the sheer experience of travel, but in order to add to our mental storehouse of experiences, or to our Instagram feeds. We go walking or running to improve our health, not for the pleasure of movement; we approach the tasks of parenthood with a fixation on the successful future adults we hope to create.

Even rest and recreation, in a culture preoccupied with efficiency, can only be understood as valuable insofar as they are useful for some other purpose – usually, recuperation, so as to enable more work. (Several conference guests mentioned Arianna Huffington’s current crusade to encourage people to get more sleep; for her, it seems, the main point of rest is to excel at the office.)

…we might try to get more comfortable with not being as efficient as possible – with declining certain opportunities, disappointing certain people, and letting certain tasks go undone. Plenty of unpleasant chores are essential to survival. But others are not – we have just been conditioned to assume that they are. It isn’t compulsory to earn more money, achieve more goals, realise our potential on every dimension, or fit more in. In a quiet moment in Seattle, Robert Levine, a social psychologist from California, quoted the environmentalist Edward Abbey: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

These past months are maybe hard to explain to most people because they haven’t had a purpose.  There’s no novel being written, no secret project, no amazing second career path being cooked up.  Nothing to see here.

What do you do?  “Whatever I like.”

Recently, at a class full of super athletes, my score was the worst.  Not terrible, just the last place finish.  So many people, very nicely, offered consolation:  “you’ll improve with time!” and “it was a hard one!”  The funny thing is, it feels good to not worry about being the best at a particular thing, and to even acknowledge being kind of bad at a thing, yet still enjoying it.

A lot of reflections on authenticity.  Something about what is going on, the next wave of some social media, feels uncomfortable.  Working through thoughts about it, the difference.

Performative.  This aspect of attention seeking, of wanting and taking, and using inauthentic means of getting at it.  It doesn’t even seem to be on purpose in some cases, in some instances it appears driven by the (dopamine) hits.  Noted in a few cases with full awareness that a particular person is struggling/has struggled with significant depression issues.

It’s that hyper-positive language (most people really don’t speak that way, nor are they that positive).  Presenting others as the Best Time and Best Group ever with the ulterior motive of being associated with the reflected shine of goodness.  It’s living out what seems to be every private moment and milestone in feigned ecstasy in the public sphere. THINGS ARE SO GOOD RIGHT NOW, HERE IS A PICTURE, PLEASE PLEASE LIKE ME.

Maybe it’s the uneasiness that for that person you may be part of the problem.  Ignore them and hurt them.  Validate them and indirectly fuel something that’s maybe… not good.  Maybe it’s that engaging with inauthentic behavior on a regular basis, even just rolling past it, is filling up life with something that’s not real.  Something spiritually and emotionally empty occupying the limited time and mental energy in this life.  We are what we eat.

Versus.

Creative.  Gives as well as takes, engages, offers.

One of my favorite people in this city is an artist (the kind with the degree who’s sold real work but has a day job because, well, money).  Her social media project is this bizarre thing involving animating inanimate objects; to say more would give her away.  It’s apparent she does it for her own amusement.  She invites along for the ride, witnesses to latest installments.

Another friend in a rural part of the country offers a stream of her life – her job, kids, family.  Her captions is are the way she really speaks and is: warm, sometimes enthusiastic, generally positive.  Glimpses into her life are offerings rather than requests, the kind of thing that feels good to see most of the time.  She makes you feel connected rather than shut out.

*

This comes around to what to put out there in the world, in more ways than one.  Above all, something that’s true.  Not everyone needs to be witness to every truth, in fact that would be counter productive and insane.  This is not for everyone.  We are not for everyone.



This place was dope
February 5, 2018, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Canada, nomadisms, nostalgia

Sitting, making coffee in the trusty french press, waiting to hear if the deal is done.

*

Not a lot of people have been to this apartment in four years.  It was acquired through hot luck, google-fu and math.

The math part being that, aside from the deposit, it was as much to pay the mortgage as it was to rent (and it came with new perks like in-suite laundry and a dishwasher, which everyone should live without for awhile just to truly appreciate these marvels).  The deposit was a solid chunk but nothing exceptional, an amount that could be recovered from if the market swan dived.

Google-fu because the listing was garbage.  Figuring out the building led to figuring out what pictures were likely not shown and that it was actually a little beauty.  It’s amazing what wrongly sized furniture, a bad feature wall and some ugly marketing can do to obscure potential.

Hot luck is the main one.  A series of events, timing.  In a few weeks going from not even thinking about buying to making offers.  The right place at the right time.

*

One time, I owned a beautiful stained glass enclosed balcony with views of the port and the old city and the mountains, big enough to spend long summer nights on. 

The apartment was a refuge from the grey days and the world, all clean bright design and comforting features.  A deep tub, a gas range, ample closets and cupboards.  Over time, furniture found its way in – from alleys and roadsides, other expats going home, a man who sold diamonds and retired hotel furniture, a couple making salvaged wood and metal benches.  Everything now looks like it was put together, somehow it all finally matches, and now it’s time to go.

The neighborhood was an instant fit; the blend of high and low, the ultra modern alongside the very old, the weird and the welcoming.   In a city that never made sense, these blocks did.  Leaving it is like leaving a close friend you know you won’t keep in touch with.  In these last few weeks, all the old haunts call out for one more visit, as though that last time could capture the exact way things taste and feel, smell and sound.

*

People have become mercenary about square footage in this city.  This place is a good spot.  Please enjoy it and take care of it.



2018
February 1, 2018, 1:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Since early December, LA and Los Cabos, with ‘work’ and selling the apartment in between.

There is a long bit about the trips languishing in drafts that doesn’t feel right.  Too fawning, too travel blog, half baked, fully cooked.  Maybe we’ll get to this someday.

Lately, gratitude.  For being able to have these experiences at this time.  To be able to go out in the world and absorb it, selfishly, with no purpose or plan.  To listen to good music, eat beautiful food, learn things, meet people.  The world doesn’t owe anyone this, yet somehow, here it is.

The last two weeks there was a wholesale clearing of things in the apartment.  The apartment is tiny; somehow it had much more in it that anticipated.  Doing this is always a kind of meditation on things.  Origin, usefulness, lifespan.  A chance to think about the next time, the next home base.  To do, and have, things for a reason.



sturdy up your heart
December 5, 2017, 4:52 pm
Filed under: insight, when I grow up

[A quick scan shows December is a rare thing in these archives.  Has it always been a dark month? A busy one?]

This has been the heaviest birthday.  Too much time to ruminate and shake around the facts to try and make sense of why has, maybe, not been the most prudent use of time.

On one hand, there is a list of everything that has gone right, which being reasonable (and having any sense of perspective) looks like a semi-charmed life.

On the other, there is the question:  is this where you thought you would be right now?

Are you who you want to be right now?

What are the things you thought you’d make time for over those years that got missed?

How will it feel if you never doing those things?

Will you be happy if the second half of this trip looks mostly like this first round?

Do you even have enough time to change any of these streams?  If you do, how close is it to the escape hatch blowing by, the point where it’s much hard to change streams?

Are you making the most of this stupid short time in the universe?

*

It’s hard to talk about this with most people.  Complaining about a solipsistic existential crisis when so many people have real, hard, non-existential stuff that is happening is apex jerk.  Whining about having too many options and wondering if there are better-than-good options.

But.

Not asking these questions, at least privately, is the scariest thing right now.  Just floating on, continuing to ride the path of relative middle class first world success.  When examining this first act, the worst fear is that maybe too many easy routes were taken.  It’s easier, in some ways, to do things to make another person happy than it is to protect your own happiness.  It’s easier to do things you’re obviously good at, although perhaps unsatisfying, than to fail a bit at things you’d like to be good at.  It’s easiest to conform and hide than to challenge and be criticized.

 



One month later
November 30, 2017, 12:21 am
Filed under: nomadisms, unrelated thoughts

This winter has been nothing but hard rain alternating with biting cold, the darkness seems to come earlier, the carbohydrates more seductive.  Nothing gets done, each day blends a bit into the next.  Work has slowed down a lot, which is fine given that early commutes in the pouring rain would not necessarily be ideal.

Planning a trip to LA.  Travel in cities is always more technical, there’s more to see (and miss) and it’s easy to accidentally spend a lot of money on pointless things like logistics and average food.  I had always written the city off a bit, it was booked in part because airfare was so ridiculously cheap and it is likely to be just a little warmer and less rainy.

We’ve been entertaining ourselves, in the meanwhile, with random evenings out of the house.  Shutting down multiple bars on Sunday nights.  A birthday that ended with a shot with a favorite dive bar owner.  Pancakes and other welcome diversions.

Everyone keeps asking about plans.  Where do you plan to be?  What are you planning to do?  There was a point where it became clear that the answers were designed more to appease than out of any sense of reality.  The point of this is to stop having so many plans, in lives that have been full of them, for awhile.



Great Expectations
November 17, 2017, 1:35 am
Filed under: runaway, when I grow up

In such a strange head space right now.

Work yesterday was fun – the food, the people, just enough action to keep things busy. Some funny stories. Worth leaving the house at 6:30 am and getting back around 10:00 pm.  So much of the job has to remain concealed.  Non-disclosure agreements, social media policies.

I walked in to get dressed, she said “We’re going to have to ugly you up!”

Today was just rain and darkness.  Back to the question of what to do in this city.  Killing time and ending up doing nothing at all.  Sitting in this vantage point, looking back over these years.  Feeling feelings continues, for better or worse.

It’s not hard to find the right words to make those years productive, almost compelling.  Helping people; genuinely there are a handful whose lives were very impacted by the work.  Making money, decent money.  Professional achievements.  Spending more time with family.  Maybe in time any of these will come to mean more, to feel like more than items accomplished on someone’s to-do list.

It’s also not hard to look and see that most people were doing the same.  Social media feeds shifted from imperative information to “at least it’s funny” to obscenely dull.  If it’s not shots of deeply mundane life events, it’s commentary on television programs or grating politics.

Maybe the abyss began to stare back.

All stacked up, it’s impossible not to want more.  To feel envy for the sprinkling of people who seemed to pursue more instead of sedating and just waiting for life to get on with it.

The most striking aspect of the last few years is a strange kind of loneliness.  In part, this is probably a consequence of not being really seen.  Pretending to be something, to fit into something, has that danger.  It gets harder to take the mask off at all.  It has also been a consequence of changing behaviors to fit assumed expectations – socially not being too loud, too funny, too forward.  Whose expectations becomes the question; there are several answers, some of them uncomfortable.

Coming out from these walls: like coming out of a bomb shelter after a long time away.

*

The call is coming from the ocean.  Ten years ago, a perfect morning.  Everything still but the water.  A feeling of peace, completeness, for the first time ever.  Letting go.

*

All of the big life questions seem to be looming at once.  Where will you live? What will you do? Who will you be surrounded by?  Everything is so wide open.  It feels almost wrong, things aren’t supposed to be like this at this age.  Don’t you have something together?

I’ve been resisting writing.  Because it feels like the truth will continue to come out and perhaps there are downsides to this.  Exploration can lead to discomfort.