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.

Advertisements


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.



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.



flashbacks
March 27, 2017, 11:54 pm
Filed under: insight, unrelated thoughts

Seven years ago, almost exactly.  Not so much has changed.  We get into all kinds of astrological mystery calculations for guidance over tequila, as accurate as any career counselor.  A recruiter emails a personal message; it’s like getting hit on at a bar on your bachelorette weekend.

Lately, the body rebels, if the mind was at all being tricked into staying, the body is voting.  It’s a bit easy sometimes to think – just a month more, just a month more than that money would be enough for [fill in the box].  Where the mind tricks itself about exhaustion, the body sends out small aches:  don’t even think about it.  Ping.  The massage therapist says “there’s a lot of tension here” and prescribes things like a heat bag and chiropractics.

The steam room smells like eucalyptus.

 



A Catalogue of Winter
February 27, 2017, 10:57 pm
Filed under: popconsumption, unrelated thoughts

Chelsea Boots with wooden soles.  Impulse purchase in a store entered to escape the bad weather.  “We have an excellent exchange policy,” the clerk said, as though the boots were the wrong size, even though they were tried on, or the credit card holder looked a bit shabby.

A vegan snack box.  Vegan snacks are taste Russian Roulette, where the secret ingredient is always dates and cashews.  Unfortunately, non vegan ‘healthy’ snacks are always sneaking in weird dairy iterations.  Powdered-milk-whey-cream.

One bag is literally dried apples.  Another is basically rice and salt.  It could be worse.

Japanese pens.  The kind of ink that’s between gel and not gel, precise.  Just hard enough to get.

Summer concert tickets.  These same tickets three years ago – same venue, same artist – sold last minute because of a work thing.  The one that got away.

A fake Rails shirt.  Those drape-y plaid shirts that women in LA wear that are hand wash only and like, one million dollars.  No, it is not strange to have no idea about this.

Hawaiian Coffee.  About four years ago, when the dollar was low (or was it the commonwealth dollars were high?), Honolulu.  Honolulu is expensive even when it’s cheaper and it was a few hours until a flight with currency to burn.  This bag of coffee, not the adulterated gift shop version but the real thing roasted fresh, the stuff of fever dreams.  This most recent bag is okay but it’s not the same.

Bluetooth Headphones.  Obvious.



since you’ve been gone
January 24, 2017, 12:32 am
Filed under: unrelated thoughts, voyageur, work work work work work

“You can stand anything for 10 seconds.  Then you just start on a new 10 seconds.”

The countdown came and went.  Holiday time was jet-lagged and rushed but still a break from the pinging messages and churning pointless to-do list.  The countdown (which has now ended) used to represent the time after which it would be okay to just quit; paid holidays cashed out, enough money saved to walk away.  When the countdown started, that is where things were focused, just making it that far.

Now there are all these small goal posts, like trail markers on a marathon.  Just. A. Little. Further.  As every one goes past, the load gets a bit lighter.

*

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get to hold your children,” she says.  She starts to cry a bit.  We are helping, half helping, pack the house they have been in for almost two decades.  She will pack the leftover pieces up for us, for when we come back.  Wine glasses and casserole dishes.

*

We buy them cigarettes, bread and washing powder.  They kiss us goodbye.  It’s complicated.  This place never stops being complicated, maybe that’s what’s so attractive about it.  This time, again, there are changes.  Those paved roads, hydro poles and preschools.  Maybe not enough, not fast enough, but something forward.

Our friends there talk about the same things our friends here struggle with.  Uncertainty about the future.  The price of property, being able to afford to have children.  How the older generation pays us poorly as they spend freely on themselves.

*

The world is a crazy place right now, women marching all over everywhere, questions about the future of free trade, political maelstrom.  More questions than answers, big questions shaking the foundations of the West.  The markets hold, Atlas shrugs.

We spend the weekend cleaning our apartment.  Taking long walks to see what is opening and what is closing.  Shutting down the news cycle, the talking heads, the rotating scandals and smokescreens.  The impulse to refresh in hope of answers instead of venturing out into the world to find them.



What Happens Next
October 20, 2016, 11:19 pm
Filed under: unrelated thoughts, when I grow up

Waiting for the drilling to stop.  Upstairs, banging, drilling, almost the sound of pressure washing.  Over and over.  The Taj Mahal of renos.

Tick, today’s main event ends.  There’s one more big thing tomorrow.  The month is careening quickly towards being over.  The mostly-joking extended countdown ticks into “reasonable” countdown territory.

There have been a series of moving end points for this project.  First, it was about getting to last summer.  Then, it became about finishing the year.  Now, it’s a question of sometime between February and May, and a the bigger question of a clean cut or a slow fade away.  There’s a nearing reality of actually not doing this anymore, this starts to lead to the question:

What happens next?There is no obvious answer.  Almost five years ago, there was an apparent answer (this).  Before that, there was an answer (quit, travel).  Before that, pure pragmatics (graduate, gain the minimum amount of experience to open the door later).  For the last, oh, fifteen years there have always been fairly apparent steps and doors, everything unfolding in ways that seemed to make sense.  There’s an immediate next part (adventure) but beyond that it’s far less obvious.

*

The fascinating act of disappearing a relationship from the internet.  No outbursts, no inappropriate emojis soliciting comfort.  The absence having more meaning that the presence of things.

Online breakups are often preluded by the end of joint social media postings by couples who have almost completely documented their relationships in the semi-public (and haven’t had kids and lost so much sleep they can’t remember passwords).  If it’s amicable, there may still be friendly acknowledgment once in awhile, but soon that will stop too.

Suddenly, there will be a profile picture cull.  All those joint shots, blip.  If looking already, a new swipe-right shot will appear (fun! cute) [future life, if this is around in ten more years – that was a jokey reference to Tinder].  This is the major clue.

Is everyone else playing social media detective?