Monday, January 23, 2012

One of my -isms

It's time for another of Peg's Quirky Confessions, internets. (Why else, after all, does one blog? It's so cathartic!)

I practice anthropomorphism.

That's right, internets. You heard me.

I am a near-serial anthropomorphizer.

I know, HeyDan*, I know... but I feel confident enough in our friendship that I can share this with the world—or at least the tiniest little sliver of it that connects with these pixels through this series of tubes—without drastic repercussions or a major loss of respect.

It's not just animals, either (though otters are always flirty girls in my head—I can blame that on my affinity for Native American spirituality). I assign genders and personalities to cars, depending on the grill and headlight placement (neither of which is a euphemism, internets, so just quit it—you'll know when I euphemize something... which, I realize, cries out for a "That's what HE said!" follow-up).

Some of them are mean, or menacing.

Some have sweet smiles.

(I know these vehicles' respective performance isn't related to this perception, but just based on the visual? Come on... don't tell me you don't see it...)

And some look like nerds with braces.

It happens with trees, too (which, to be fair, could also be attributed to my animistic tendencies). Weeping willows? Female. Oak? Stolidly male. Holly? Female (more due to red berry decor than name, because there is precedent for at least one male named Holly).

I don't have a lot of rationale behind these designations, either. (Try not to be shocked.) It's part whim and part whimsy, I guess. It just makes sense in my brain (for whatever that's worth... though since it's me I'm gonna go with "a good bit").

I can't be the only one who does this, internets. Please tell me it's not me! What other stuff do you assign gender or personality to?

Don't judge, y'all. Confess and we'll all feel less alone and crazy. Besides, this kind of perspective makes road trips or neighborhood walks or trips to the zoo even more entertaining. Isn't that a good thing? Good ol' fashioned noggin-using?

I even used to come up with stories about them, too.

Hey... maybe I should write that stuff down!

* As you may have rightly surmised, internets, this refers to my friend Dan, who knows the answers to many, many things and is, in all honesty, one of the smartest people I know (and I am fortunate enough to know a lot of smart people—more than a brazilllion, which is to say, more than 5). Since he knows many, many things, people often came to Dan to answer questions, starting with the telltale phrase, "Hey Dan...." Ergo, his moniker HeyDan.

As you also may have surmised, anthropomorphism makes him crazy. Disney movies are a special hell in his world. *sigh*

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Dog Ate My Blog

Writing is hard.

This is not news to anyone who has ever labored over a term paper (and isn't it big of me to assume that all of my followers—all 13 of you!*—have at least an 8th grade education?), but it's no less true for all that.

I suppose, however, that it's more accurate to say that coming up with ideas about which to write are hard. Me, I'm relatively good at beginnings. My brain gets pelted with ideas like a surly C&W crowd hurls bottles of long neck beer when the singer forgets the words to a Hank Williams tune (at least that's how it happens in my head, internets; I'm not much for the honky or the tonk, myself—though I will admit to harboring big love in my heart for cheap Shiner Bock).

So... yeah. Ideas.

I'm not much of a closer. Here's what happens in my brain, only with less science and more whimsy:

My degree is actually in English, and SMU (my alma mater) offers a fiction writing specialty. I loved the classes but ye gods and little fishes... I sucked at outlines. I didn't know where the story was going to go! I had An Idea! My Muse could not be so tamed or restricted (or some such rot). I don't know if it was laziness or if my brain truly doesn't work that way, but I almost never knew where the story was going to go, which meant that it could never get anywhere. Pacing, structure... these things elude me still. (Wow, if that's not an allegory for my life, I don't know what is!)

ANYhoo... when I do get ideas, they're never convenient. (I'm pretty sure my long-neglected Muse is having an aneurysm right about now.) I get 90% of my viable ideas when I'm in the shower. Really? I guess because I'm pondering last night's dream while simultaneously mapping out my day? Something about that combination puts my brain into overdrive, but it's utterly unfair because I can't write down ideas, nor can I bring a voice recorder into the shower. Well, I could, but it would only end in tears. Namely mine. So.. no.

And of course by the time I'm done drying, moisturizing, toning, lotioning, and powdering all the appropriate bits, then engaging in the usual Hair Product InequityTM ritual, ideas have fled, and I am (to quote my Grandfather) left and bereft.

Of course, the other time my brain is rife with ideas? When I'm driving. Because clearly, hurtling 80MPH down the interstate is a grand time to pause and jot down some notes. Sure, I'll just reach for the handy dandy recorder instead. Clearly, that's a safer option (in a not kind of way).

So instead, I'm left with trying to reconstruct pieces of these ideas when I can give them the time and attention they deserve, only it's rather like waking and knowing you just had the most awesome dream! It was so vivid! So real! Something about... ponies... or rainbows... and there was this guy. He, um, said some... stuff.

Yeah, internets. It's like that.

But hey, that's why I'm engaging in this whole blogging exercise, innit? To give myself some structure, and to write something other than the training courses that my Real Job pays me to write. CONFESSION: I haven't been using my degree much since I started writing for a living—how sad is that? But it feels too much like... well, work. But that's the WHOLE POINT! It is work, and the you get better by working at it.

I know this is true. I am friends with awesome writers like these and many more inspiring talents who fill me with awe (and some small amount of shame) at the amount of critical thought they're able to apply to their craft.

This is because, internets, there are days like today where you blog about not having ideas, which is the blogging equivalent of a show about nothing, or the dog eating your blog post.

Apparently, the difficulty lies not in lacking something to say, but in saying something in a meaningful way.

My bad.

*To reinforce my Nerdy Grrl cred, I quote Felicia Day: "I have dozens of fans. Baker's dozens. They come in thirteens."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Phobias and Chocolate

My friends are wonderful, amazing people. They're witty, funny, smart, and caring. (According to them, we have these things in common, so it works out well for all concerned.) They also know of my paranoid phobias little personality quirks like my fear of Evil Cartilage FishTM (which the rest of the world calls simply "sharks").

Because my friends are, as mentioned, caring individuals, they look out for me. They tell me when it's Shark Week on Discovery Channel, knowing the flailing and hammering of my heart that will occur if I see a commercial for it. Jenn, being extra vigilant, even warned me off the Snickers commercial which prominently features ECFs. (Though I confess a shudder when I catch a frame or two as I'm forwarding my DVR... yeargh!)

My friend Shabby even went so far as to make me my own special copy of Finding Nemo sans Bruce. He set up two VCRs and whenever Bruce appeared, he pulled out the video cable so I could hear and keep up with the story, but wouldn't have to see an all-too-realistic cartoon shark; the great white variety bothers me most of all.

I cannot state this strongly enough—while I've worked to get better less bad about it, my BFF Buffalo Gal (that's where she's from, y'all—be nice!) can attest that it's no mean feat. She sat next to me in the darkened theater when the trailer for Deep Blue Sea tried to kill me. I am not even kidding when I say she had to shove my head between my knees and remind me to breathe. Not only were there ECFs in abundance, but some dumb ass human decided to MAKE THEM SMARTER!!! What fresh hell is this?!?!?

And before you get all helpful and Wiki-y on me, internets, I know the odds of a shark attack. Did you see the bit where I called it a phobia? That means it's developed well beyond "reasonable fear of a dangerous predator," careening around the corner of "they freak me out a little," landing me squarely in the county of "JeebusOMGthey'recomingtoKILLALLOFME" (a county where, clearly, I have voting rights if not outright residence privileges).

So... yeah. It's kind of a problem, and has been for all of my life.

Nope, I wasn't scarred by a screening of Jaws at a tender age (though that certainly couldn't have helped). I've just always been unduly terrified. I grew up in Michigan—the Sunrise Side, to be specific—and our house was just on the other side of U.S. 23 from Lake Huron. The beaches there are beautiful—sugar sand like in the Caribbean, with clear, cool waters. I don't remember ever not knowing how to swim. I'm surprised I don't have permanently pruny skin from all the time I spent in the water... and you can bet your bippy (if I even knew what a "bippy" was) that when the sun went behind the clouds, I hopped on my floatie and pulled all my limbs in... because you can't trust 'em, those ECFs. They might sneak up when I couldn't see them coming and *WHAM!* I'm shark bait (HOO! HaHa! Sorry—can't resist an opportunity to quote Finding Nemo).

I can't explain the Why of it; I just know that it Is and always has been in my world. I even tried to get over it. I couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 years old and I remember forcing myself to watch the shark parts of National Geographic to desensitize myself. (What kind of kid does that, internets?!?)

Later in life, I even tried video game therapy. In Animal Crossing, you have to catch fish to earn money/XP and imagine my surprise when in my little bay in my hamlet of Eeeville (yes, that's what I named my town!) I saw dreaded fins!

But no worries, internets. I stayed calm. I conquered those pixelated bastards.

My Mii even put them in a tank and TURNED HER BACK ON THEM. I felt mighty and empowered that I allowed that without losing my mind/lunch/contents of my bladder.

So... even with unfortunate candy commercials and movie trailers, I can keep my world as shark-free as I need it to be in order to function.


See, there's this exhibit in Dallas called Planet Shark and it's trying to murderize me. (Why else would they place billboards all over the D/FW Metroplex featuring the gaping maw of an ECF? Clearly, it's to make me have a stroke and wreck my car; there is precedent set for such chicanery in the animal kingdom, as my friend LE Bean can attest.)

No one warned me, either, internet. I don't know if I've seemed extra sane and together lately or what—STOP LAUGHING!—or folks just didn't have a cell phone handy—seriously, it's NOT FUNNY!—or what, but I wasn't given any warning, and it came a little too close to creating dire circumstances.

I wouldn't be surprised if the ECFs set it up. I mean, they're starting to hybridize now so who knows WHAT they'll get up to next?!

Quick—someone bring me a Snickers to distract me.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sitcom Wisdom

Before we get into today's post, I'd like to wish you all Happy New Year! (We'll save the "when do you stop actually saying that?" debate for another post, okay?) I'm not as eloquent about it as My Secret Boyfriend Neil Gaiman*, but it's no less sincere for all that.

Though, now that I think about it, bringing up MSBNG (yeah, that acronym isn't working for me either, internets—sounds too much like a news channel and my adoration for Neil is hardly news—my bad!) was fiendishly clever of me because the linked post above is thematically tied to what I want to share today. (I love it when my brain has a plan and doesn't let me in on it until the very last nanosecond!)

I'm feeling a little more reflective lately, internets. Perhaps this was induced by the dizzying possibilities and potentialities of a brand new calendar year, or perhaps it's due to bidding adieu to the old year. Though I'm not a big believer in New Year's Resolutions, being more of the Do It Now! Live the Life You've Always Imagined! sort, there is something seductive about assigning an otherwise arbitrary start date to such things. For me, there tend to be more pitfalls and disappointments when I follow that path, but I don't judge. If it's your thang, good on ya. Get down with your bad self.

In the inevitable looking back process, though, I find myself doing mental inventory of the things I've learned. I'm middle aged (Good Lord, when did that happen?!?) but in my relatively short-ish life I have managed to amass a small stash of wisdom—mostly through the usual I-Don't-Think-I-Wanna-Do-That-Again trial and error method most of us employ.

It comes down to this: Your brain is NOT your friend. It can be fooled in so many, many ways. Your memories aren't really what you think. And even scientific observation to reinforce our own conclusions fall victim to Confirmation Bias (unless we're actual scientists... but even then, I'm dubious). This kind of sucks since it's your tool for interacting with the world in a meaningful fashion.

Oddly enough, the solution can be found via George Costanza in Seinfeld: Just do the opposite.

It's brilliant, really. George decides that every decision that he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the exact opposite of what it should be. George tells Jerry, who convinces him that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right”. George then resolves to start doing the complete opposite of what he would do normally. He orders the opposite of his normal lunch, and he introduces himself to a beautiful woman who happens to order exactly the same lunch, saying, "My name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents." To his surprise, she is impressed and agrees to date him.

George was really onto something. We get so enmeshed in our habits—whether or not they're actually good for us—that it becomes easy to sleepwalk through life. We stick with what's comfortable, when getting strong means hurting a little. That's how you build muscle, right? Little micro tears heal, leaving strength in the wake of temporary aches and pains.

It may be my own Confirmation Bias working here, but that seems to support some of my Working Hypotheses for Getting Through Life in a Less Miserable Fashion (like Captain Barbossa, I don't have rules or codes... mostly just guidelines).

Mentally and spiritually the process isn't that different. For myself, I've discovered that fearing something probably means I should run towards it. The caveat to this, of course, is that one must be facing irrational fears, phantoms of the brain and such. Running towards dangerous predators like Alaskan Brown Bears or Evil Cartilage FishTM sharks is probably not wise; fear of those things is utterly rational and life saving.

But for pernicious Brain Weasels that lurk in my grey matter and seek to only maintain the status quo (even if it isn't quo!), I look at it like this: if I'm afraid of something, then it must have meaning or else I wouldn't feel anything (sort of like how the opposite of love isn't hate; it's indifference). The fear probably springs from the fear of either losing the thing of significance, or of actually getting said significant thing. If it has meaning to me, though, that's counter-intuitive at best which means I should run towards situations that I fear because they have meaning and significance for me. And since my brain can't be trusted, voilĂ ! It really does make sense, in a Zen-ish paradoxical kind of way.

It's the same with powerful emotions—especially painful ones. The more you struggle to avoid them, the more they trap you like the proverbial Tar Baby. When it comes to pain, the only way through it is through it. You can bury it or avoid it, but it never goes away. In fact, these strategies practically guarantee that it will get much, much worse before it gets better. It's natural to shy away from pain, but you only get rid of it when you own it and process it; then you can move on and heal. See how that ties into the muscle building analogy?

I love what I read on a post on Tiny Buddha recently: "Fear is an emotion, not a fact." Based on that, it's hard to imagine why we'd want to let fear rule our emotional lives.

I have no scientific basis for any of these theories other than my own meandering experience, but so far it seems to be working. Really, the efficacy of a thing is the ultimate indicator, don't you think? This could be a great informal experiment, internets! Try your own Opposite Day! Let me know what you learn! Ohhh, the things we could unleash... the (good kind of) havoc we could wreak!

Then again, this is wisdom gleaned from an episode of Seinfeld. It's all relative.

* If you didn't read Neil's journal post, you really should. Because 1) I spent the time to embed the links, and really internets, there's no need to be so selfish!; and D) it's a really, really good post—inspiring, warm, and wonderful. And who doesn't need more of that in their day?