“To love and to be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” -David Viscott

“You’ve just gotta love yourself first.”

This was one of those times I wish I had a video-camera quality memory to record the conversation I was having. It was significant, moving. But so was every conversation I had had to this point  with this particular person, each word leaving a footprint on my thawing, but still tundra-like heart, covered in snow and ice.

“Do you think things would have been different if you weren’t leaving,” I asked.

“I think it’s possible,” he said.

I’ve been through the mistake of an all-too-soon long distance relationship. That wound is still a short bit away from healing. The trick is knowing that each party has the courage to do all that is necessary for love to thrive, not just limp along out of a broken neediness and fear of being alone. I know that I would not endure that again.

Silence. But not the uncomfortable kind, the kind that comes from a natural, unspoken understanding. The kind that comes from mutual respect.

I’ve been single for about a year and a half. It’s mostly by choice. Well, more out of necessity really. And the circumstance of living in a town that is rather small. I’ve dated, and it’s been okay, I guess. But sometimes these things hit you over the head like a caveman getting takeout in a shitty, anachronistic B-film from the early 20th century (complete with dinosaurs). You feel transparent, naked. Exposed. And it makes your head hurt and all dizzy-like.

Somehow, I’ve been okay with it, I guess, and hearing out loud one of many things that has gnawed at me over the past year from somebody who, in the big picture of my life, has only known me for an inconsequential period of time, shakes me. The layers of bull I’ve piled up seem pretty pointless, and I finally feel ready to shed them.

The observation, though brings me to my point: you have to love yourself first.

I can list tons of reasons that I am awesome. Okay, that sounds exceedingly arrogant, let me rephrase: there are many things I like about myself. But what I’ve realized is that while, yes, I like many things about myself, I have somehow managed to live almost 25 years and not actually like, no LOVE myself. I don’t mean in some vain inner-goddess worshiping, narcissistic way. That’s not love. That’s insecurity.

I mean in the sleep-so-fast-you-can’t-wait-to-live-your-life-like-it’s-Christmas-morning sort of way. I mean in the get-so-caught-up-in-something-you-love sort of way. I mean in the damn-it-feels-good-to-be-a-gangster-up-at-the-ass-crack-of-dawn-running-jumping-singing-with-the-birds-in-that-princess-costume-from-when-you-were-four sort of way. I can’t recall feeling that way much at all.

If anything, I am exceedingly grateful to have met this person and have been irreversibly blessed by it. My life has been improved permanently by seemingly innocuous interactions. And I hope our paths  cross in the future.

Well, then, what is this? This is the realization that there is a full-tilt star quality fusion reaction starting at my core. (maybe that’s why I’ve been so gassy lately. ahem…) This is the full immersion in truly believing my life is awesome and I have something of value to share with the world. This is the ignition of the internal passion that drives me, not out of anger like I’ve been living, but of joy, contentment and love. This is conviction and drive. This is the thing I fight for, live breathe and die for. THIS IS SPARTA!

And it’s all within me.

I’ve spent far too long putting my happiness in other peoples’ hands.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of love as being much like feeling the sun on your face. You can get along just without experiencing it for a while. But you do need to feel it every once in a while to remember how good it is to simply bask in and share with another. I know I have some overcast and slightly cloudy days ahead and will not feel the sun on the outside sides for a bit longer. But at the very least, I can make sure I feel it on the inside until that time comes so I will know the full pleasure of feeling it on both sides.

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” -Frederick Buechner

Vulnerable. Raw.

This is how schoolchildren, teachers and parents in a small Connecticut town have felt ever since the devastating Sandy Point school shooting a few months ago.

Media speculation doesn’t help; the televised analyses provide the salt and lemon juice to be rubbed into the seeming death by a million proverbial paper cuts of people directly and indirectly affected by the shooting.

A quick (s)troll through social media sites finds an endless moray of articles calling for more gun control. Now. NRA be damned, we need those weapons off the streets. Our babies, our collective safety, all lay on the line.

On this note, I ask people to not confuse correlation with causation – just because America has the highest numbers of mass shootings by a long shot may not mean that this is an issue determined by our gun control policies, but rather our attitudes towards fear. This is not the discussion that scares me most in the aftermath of these shootings. The discussion that scares me is the one surrounding mental illness and how to deal with it.

An letter entitled “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” bounced around like a pinball played by Tommy amongst my circle of friends on Facebook shortly after the shooting; I can only assume a similar trend follows everyone else around. While seemingly enlightened and well intentioned, this presents a problem: we have people who are either mentally healthy or suppose they are mentally healthy because they have not been told otherwise commenting on –to put it bluntly and rather crassly—what to do with the “crazies.”

The mother in the article has a very legitimate concern: her son threatens physical violence to her and her other children on a regular basis. I applaud her for not turning her child over to the state, to the prison system, or to a private institution, because frankly those are probably worse environments for her son. But she compromises her safety and the safety of her own children in the process. She is forced into a situation where her career is no longer what she dreamt of, but the appropriate measures taken to financially afford the care of her child. This is real life right here.

What is not talked about is what it is like for the son.

But really, who gives a damn. He’s a monster. He pulls knives on his own mother. Who in their right mind would do that? Or even their left mind?

It’s not about the function of the brain at this point. I encourage and personally challenge each and every one of you reading this right now to consider this: this is about the people born into these brains, these systems of electrical systems somehow jury-rigged in a practical joke of evolution, God, or Mother Nature to operate differently. These are the people who have to regularly go through the process of thinking either streamlined fifty steps ahead of average or permanently mired in a Rube-Goldberg contraption, forever delayed to get to the point due to it’s own flawed design, full of redundancies and detours.

This is what we deal with.

Yes, we. I .

I want to humanize this for you. I am fortunate to be a fully functioning human being who happens to also have significant troubles with ADD, Anxiety and Depression. In my definition of significant, I mean it impacts how I live my life; how I study, how I date, how I love, how I (don’t) interact with my parents, how I earn money to live, how I perform mundane household tasks, how I create relationships and how I can empathize with the world around me. And while this is a fairly “common” mental illness, people still do no talk about it.

And I am blessed enough to have the personality, character, passion and drive to be successful BECAUSE of this. Yes, because. Not in spite of. Not with my difficulties. Because.  Unless you’re Harvey Dent, every coin has two different sides, and each of these things come with a blessing. But it’s often at the cost of the way I interact with the people around me, and sometimes the cost is unbearably high.

We can look at abnormal psychology through two different lenses: the one that views it as entirely caused by what we are made of – our genetic code. The other is by proxy from the environment that created it.

At this point, humanity and science can do very little to change genetic makeup of any given individual in a targeted and meaningful way. We like to think we are on the cusp of a breakthrough, but truly we are still flailing about, barely comprehending the basic code that gives us both form and function. And then there are the ethical considerations.

What we can change is our environment.

Let me repeat that: we have the ability as a society to structure the world around us in many varied, beautiful and healthy ways. But we don’t. Not usually.

Here’s why this is important.

People who struggle with a mental illness – and probably many mentally healthy people as well – often cannot control where their mind goes or what their mind shows them. This is life in the constant grip of fear. This is life in the constant mire of uncertainty of what the world around you is doing. This is complete loss of control of self in the absence of healthy structure. This is terrifying. And when the world around you fails to listen to what you – the person inside that brain­ – is saying, you wonder whether you make sense. You get frustrated. And when enough people  in your life ignore what you think are your own attempts at asking for help in the only way you know how, you become willing to do anything to get your point across. You’ll tantrum, yell, scream, hold somebody’s feelings hostage. And to a degree, all people do that. But there are those among us who, through no fault of their own, cannot see where the line in the sand is drawn for most other people as to what may be appropriate. It’s like being blind to social cues, reality and appropriateness. I like to think of it in terms of “In order to make room for more cool things I could do with my brain, God (or, if you prefer, nature) tossed out some of my hardwiring for social niceties.” Maybe it could make sense in computer terms: I got a device with more RAM, but some of the subroutines and updates to the operating system most of the other kids have didn’t come installed and is not necessarily backwards (or forwards) compatible with different versions.

So why is this relevant to the way we structure our environment?

Because society as a whole forms the environment through which people – all people – operate. Our neighbors, coworkers, classmates, families, friends and random aquaintances all shape the seemingly pedestrian experiences of our existence by adding the building blocks to the structure.

You never know how what you say affects those around you, and a seemingly innocent comment can cut deep to the core at somebody who is trying desperately to fit in, and failing at it in the process. What we need, no what you need, is to live fully present in a world created by compassion and courage to see things from somebody else’s viewpoint.

Why do I bother to include you, the reader, in this process? Because you are one tour of duty in Iraq away from coming home fully immersed in a PTSD meltdown. You are one head injury away from slowed cognitive processes or one spinal cord injury away from becoming incapacitated. You are one abusive relationship or sexual assault away from feeling worthless and paranoid. You are one blood clot away from a debilitating stroke and being unable to speak or move part of your body.

You are fragile. And so are we.

People of all races, ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, income levels, political beliefs and religions are and can be affected. Instead of defining the sum total of a person’s existence by a few electrical misfires or chemical imbalances in their brains, or by damaging programming from a childhood riddled with abuse, I challenge each and every one of you reading this to respond differently to all people around you and to change the stigma surrounding those who are quite literally “wired” differently.

Chances are, it terrifies those of us living with these differences as much as it terrifies you.

I leave you with this inspiring TED talk from Elyn Saks:

Note: This is one in a series of TED talks about mental illness entitled “All kinds of minds.”

If you feel moved to action, check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness‘ “Stigma Busters” program.

For more information on mental illness and domestic violence, click here or here.

“I re-invented my image so many times that I’m in denial that I was originally an overweight Korean woman.” -David Bowie

Netflix is great. The endless catalog of movies that would normally be unconsidered creates the opportunity to experience stories ranging from  the unheard of to familiar friends you had forgotten that you missed.

Today, I watched Animal Farm, an adaptation of the book written by George Orwell as a commentary on the political climate that gave birth to the rise of Stalinism in the era between World War II and The Cold War. I had read the book some years ago, and some of the memories of the reading came flooding back. The political undertones are, of course, evident, and many an intellectual has spent countless hours, words and breaths debating the nuances of the story.

So, to prevent the beating of a dead horse (poor word choice?) let’s expand the scope of Animal Farm as it relates to Politics to cover an equally messy, complex subject : relationships. After all, is politics not the study of relationships between and within states? Are relationships not one of the most politically charged of enterprises?

Two themes became readily apparent as the demise of a revolutionary movement led by pigs unfolded across the screen this morning: control and denial.

Lack of control over their own destinies and maltreatment created the climate for the Animals to revolt successfully and, initially, do away with their human overlords. Unifying principles and a code of conduct that had been established before the overthrow created solidarity initially, but the dynamic changed when fear that the unity would not remain in the new regime. The unifying principles became a threat to the pigs who had previously been in control as the architects of the revolution.

So the pigs in Animal Farm did what anybody seeking to remain in control would do: they changed the rules and manipulated through fear. By making exceptions for their own morality, the pigs began to adopt the very behaviors, the boundaries that separated them- the animals- from the oppressors -the humans- that were condemned at the beginning of the revolution. They broke the covenants set forth at the founding of Animal Farm to remain in power and to maintain the pleasures of privilege afforded to those in power.

Similarly, relationships fall apart because the promises and commitments made to each other to love, to protect, to share with one another are bent, manipulated or outright broken for the convenience or pleasure of one of the partners. Perhaps it’s a self-defeating, subconscious operation-feelings of not deserving love, growing up with a parent who showed their “love” through violence, being afraid of the relationship falling apart-manifesting itself as a shift from being a part of a loving cooperative relationship to one of dominance and control.  Maybe it happens after somebody gets an education, moves onto healthy habits. Something upsets the roles people have played to this point, and in order to maintain the familiarity of roles, people bend or break their commitments.

So why do humans bother to get ourselves into these messes in the first place?

We choose loyalty because it has benefits. You know that free cup of coffee you get after purchasing 10 cups? It’s a little like that.

We choose relationships because we want to feel complete, to belong. We give ourselves over to them initially because we know that on our own, something is missing, and our lack of connection to others makes us feel vulnerable and as though it is the one thing keeping us from joining the ranks of humanity. Grown-up stuff.

We choose patriotism in a similar manner; we want to belong and feel part of something greater than ourselves. We know that without the unity of our compatriots, without a unified economic structure, an army, legal system, we are vulnerable to rampant vigilantism and decimation or conquest by those nation states who are united. United we stand, divided we fall kinds of things.

This doesn’t always mean we make great choices. It doesn’t mean we pick great partners. And it doesn’t mean we make great partners just because we want it so badly. In fact, if we feel a compulsory need to have relationships to validate our existence chances are better that we make really awful partners, friends and family members. These are the people who have never been without  a significant other, swinging like Tarzan from one relationship to the next, not letting go until another vine is firmly in hand. These are the mama’s boys, the daddy’s girls, and the zealous “fuck yeah, ‘murica” crowd.

This brings in the risk of being a whistle blower. People who identify corruption in a regime, point out an error in calculations on a project, or who point out damaging or hurtful behaviors in a relationship put themselves at great risk – to point out weakness can be seen as challenging somebody’s authority or worth. A handful of characters in Animal Farm try at different points to question the hypocrisy of the pigs’ actions when the pigs begin to behave exactly as their previous oppressors.

The failure does not exist in the weakness, the stumble, the fumble, the deviation from the principles. The failure occurs when those who have the power or responsibility to make the corrections  or changes to simply improve or restore functionality to the system not only choose not to do so, but turn around and condemn the whistle blower for even suggesting the possibility of an error on their part in the first place. Indignantly they cry “how dare you?!? If you were a patriot, if you were a loyal party member, if (my personal favorite) you really loved me you would not say that anything is wrong!” Ironically, it is because of love – of a country, an ideal or a person – that people point out these things. It is because they see the potential of the framework, of the raw materials that they bring these things to light. What was an opportunity to strengthen the structure  of the new government, of a relationship becomes the first step towards its perversion. The denial becomes the flaw. The failure to act or respond becomes the harm.

A slightly tangential historical example: the Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster. In January of 1986, the shuttle exploded a mere 73 seconds after liftoff. Engineers had warned middle management of problems not only with design flaws in critical components that maintained pressure, but of the performance of such components in such low temperatures. The shuttle launched anyway, and seven people died. In the aftermath, investigations, finger-pointing and more government oversight ensued. The shuttle program was also severely handicapped. While there were flaws with the raw materials, they were found in time. The people responsible hid the information in order to try and save face, look good. They denied the problem existed.

This series of denial, in turn, prompts the accused to set up a punishment. In regimes, it becomes very legalistic. You get sued. You pay a fine. Sometimes the exposed flaw can be so damaging that the legal system gets completely bypassed. You get sent to the gulag. You get sent to Guantanamo. You are a traitor, a terrorist.

In relationships it’s a little different, and legitimate disagreements or points of contention have different consequences than challenged authority met with denial. Maybe you’re broken up with. Or maybe, you’re physically assaulted – beaten, raped. Maybe you’re psychologically assaulted, called crazy, told you’re imagining things, told you aren’t important, told that your needs don’t matter. This latter “gaslighting” scenario is particuarly favored by those who wish to keep up appearances, who can’t handle the dissonance in their own psyche that maybe they’re being a real jerk. (For a GREAT discussion on this particular topic, go here). They manipulate the situation so that they’re seen as the victim.

The theme of those who deny becomes “See! Look what you made me do!” In all hilarity, they justify every single one of their actions when confronted with reality. They don’t admit the information they’re presented with is legit, but they sure do spend a lot of time justifying their responses.
And the sad part is, this denial isn’t always because of malicious intent. Its because people don’t know what to do with the information when it’s presented to them, and they don’t want the responsibility for being blamed for a failed response.

The point: until people realize that they are not in control of the world around them, they will have to turn to denial to compensate. Or, like David Bowie, maybe we are all just Fat Korean women, so lost in making up all these excuses and defenses we are out of touch with our principles and people we love. It would explain the mullets.

“Let me tell you I am better acquainted with you for a long absence, as men are with themselves for a long affliction: absence does but hold off a friend to make one see him truer.” -Ovid

The too-long pause in the comedy routine. The darkened silhouette against the deepening magenta, violet and goldenrod hues of a perfect summer sunset. The uncomfortable midnight groping for a light-switch that has moved somewhere it ought not be. The infinite horizon punctuating the perfectly abrasive dampness of sand between toes at the beach.

Photo By Annie Leibowitz
The white milk and bathtub frame the face of actress and comidienne Whoopi Goldberg.

The ending.

The loss.

The death.

Negative Space – the thing that does not exist so that other things may be viewed more clearly by the absence.

This was a concept drilled relentlessly into my psyche during the time in my life when I thought I would be the travelling-nomadic-photographer type right out of college. And then I saw something missing in my studies. So, naturally, I changed my major to something completely unrelated. When my studies did not quench the thirst in my soul, I dropped out and followed my heart across the country.

My grandfather is dying. From a brain tumor. He’s 90 years old, and has lived a long life surrounded by people who love him. His wife, my grandmother, passed about two years ago. He’s expressed the desire to remarry, and at almost a century old, his still-red hair and quick wit could render defenseless the guard of any lady he set his sights on-he’s been quite the eye-candy amongst with the widows at his church. Every time I’ve called back home, I hear how popular he is with the nurses watching over his care, how charming he is still with one eye removed and a sickly pallor brought on by the radiation treatment. But truthfully, I think he misses his wife, my grandmother, and the presence of a loving, life-long partner, the one that has pledged to be for him. Perfectly healthy and robust before, the youngest of 13 children who all lived into their 90s, it seems the void left in the wake of her departure has caught up to him.

I am sad to know he will not be around to see me get married, have kids or life milestones, but the thought of his leaving has heightened awareness of all that he has taught and given me in our time together. I can see these things more clearly through the lens of loss, of absence. Of the negative space framing them.

Most people have been exposed to the idea of negative space through the image that bears either the mirror image of two faces in profile or a vase, depending on how you look at it. (Pictured left.) Truly, this is a concept not limited to the fields of art or design. But that is not to say that the negative space in a person’s life is only defined by loss, but rather the waiting, the yearning, the aching, the enjoying, the celebrating, the next step and the sigh at the end of the day.

The space under the Christmas tree. The time spent waiting for a birthday or vacation. The shameless bribery of ice cream in exchange for giving “Mommy 15 minutes of peace and quiet for a bubble bath.”

But instead of allowing those spaces to just be, we fill those voids with stuffandjunkandthings to the brim, so that when something comes along worth having, we have no space for it and have no choice but to let it pass us by.

Or maybe it’s what we don’t say that matters. Maybe it’s the words of love left unsaid that frame the problems between two people. Maybe its the unspoken words of anger that make the a disappointment more obvious. Maybe it’s the time apart that punctuates the strength of a relationship between two people.

Consider the size of the atom. Start by thinking on the scale of really small things. Start with Kate Moss. Just kidding. Let’s start with a grain of rice (Basmati, for those of you who are curious). A grain of Basmati rice measures about 7 millimeters, or  7×10^-3 meters. The diameter or distance across for a red blood cell is about 7 micrometers, or 7×10^-6 meters, which is a thousandth the size of the grain of rice. And then there’s the atom. The diameter across, measured by where the electrons orbit the nucleus, is approximately 10^-9 meters, or on the order of a thousandth the size of that red blood cell. However, the inside of that atom is between 10^-13 and 10^-15 meters in diameter. That’s up to a thousand trillion times smaller than the grain of rice. The

Basic Diagram of an atom

space between the electrons and the nucleus? Its just that, space. Every tiny particle that makes us up is mostly nothing.*

So when you take this into account, most of the “stuff” on the planet and in the known universe is mostly nothing as well. Yet, our lives, our very existence would be intimately different if this were not the case.

Negative space.

This is not the time to have an existential meltdown, or a crisis of self worth if you were secure in your identity as a person of “substance.”

This is the time to think of the solider leaving a lover or family behind while going off to war. This is the time to think about the parent dropping off their child for their first day of kindergarten–or first year of college for that matter. This is the time to think about how the curves of a lover’s lips would be less beautiful if there were no space to part them. What happens on the other side that absence or cannot be defined without the space in-between.

Photo By Richard Avedon

*No comments from the peanut gallery concerning subatomic particles, forces, energy and the like. The scientific reference, is of course, grossly simplified for illustrative purposes.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

What do you get out of life by sitting around doing nothing? The only acceptable answers here are a.fat, b.bedsores, c. cut-off circulation to an extremity/body part on and d. nothing worth having. For the sake of this post, we’ll be focusing on “d.”

The fact is, the last time I got fit, got a job I wanted, got into school, got a grade I wanted, got a date I wanted, achieved anything I wanted I had to work. And I had to put my ass on the line. I had to put myself in a situation where things were possible.

That didn’t mean that every time I worked hard, pulled all-nighters, or made awesome food and gave foot rubs, etc. to my S.O. it paid off. No, often enough my effort was met with a “You know we completely changed our minds with what we wanted for this article,” “Oh great i got a C-,” and “We need to talk. About us.”

You will NOT succeed every time you work hard.

You will not always achieve your goals.

You will not always get the girl/guy/hermaphrodite/cupcake.

You will have worked hard, and you will have accomplished something you never thought possible. And that should be the reward in itself.

It seems pointless to motivate yourself with the thought of an external reward when you consider that said reward could prove to be non-existent after completing the task. You have to rely on other people to come through and acknowledge your achievement. You have to wait for the world to validate your existence. This habit we’ve gotten into of expecting recognition for doing things that merely determine the outcome of our lives is a product of a world dissatisfied with the intrinsic value of things and the natural consequences of our actions.

You work hard, often you will get a raise. You get a raise, and you’re motivated to work harder. Cause, effect. Simple.

Sometimes, though, you’ll get fired because somebody else has tenure and your company is downsizing. This in and of itself is not the failure; the failure is to not see the opportunity

Now is not the time to sit in a corner and cry. Unclasp your hands from your head, remove yourself from the fetal position and stand up. You’ll be fine.

“Since when has being cheap counted as “empowerment”?…Hey, I’m all for getting in touch with the “inner goddess” by pole dancing you’re way to “new you”, but you can’t get lobster thermidore out of a can of tuna. Get a life.” — from Heartless Bitches International

A few months ago, a male friend of mine received some up-close and personal, x-rated pictures from a female acquaintance via text.

Background: said male friend is someone who I would label as a “nice guy” you could take home to your parents, is pursuing a wholesome career, has certain admirable character traits, the like. Female acquaintance of his apparently was involved in youth church activities at the same church growing up, had gone her separate way for many years and, recently been on one date with him.

I, being the curious person that I am, inquired as to the reason for the pictures. He said she was “just interested.”

(cue music: “sounds of crickets chirping”)

Well, dang! Hold onto your hats because in this day and age, the standard protocol is STILL for ladies to flash their mamaries and genatalia to potential partners! Let me go grab my cavewoman outfit…

If I really believed that being easy was the most effective way to let a guy worth being with know I was “interested,” I would have done it a long time ago. Ladies, we aren’t livestock for sale. We do not live in third-world countries where our worth is determined by how many offspring we can produce as property for husbands. And quite frankly, you are allowed to use your brains for more than coordinating outfits and reading fashion, home making or child rearing magazines. (These things are great, but really, there is more out there.)

The human body is a glorious, glorious thing to behold. Artists, doctors, and lay persons alike can appreciate it’s various functions and forms. It is a machine truly deserving of respect and reverence.

Respect.

That doesn’t mean merely admiring the body.

Respect means realizing there’s a person attached to it, with hopes, fears, brains and beleifs. And to merely favor the body of ones self or another and what it can do for you as the worth of a human being shows a decrepit poverty of spirit, a lack of substance that can wholly be called shallow.

This means respecting physical limitations and disability. This means respecting the mind of that person and listening to them. This means respecting people of the opposite sex as members of the same species. This means respecting and loving yourself first so that you can say, gently “no thanks, that behavior is not for me because it dosn’t get me what I really want.”

Ladies: I am tired of hearing “I just want one man to show me they aren’t all alike.” It’s a thought I have entertained many times, and there’s some validity to it. We want a man to rise to the challenge of a real, loving and intimate relationship. But listen, waiting hopelessly and helplessly for a guy to come and “rescue” you completely relieves you from any responsibility for your own happiness. It doesn’t mean you have to be a bitch, it just means you have to believe you are a worthwhile person and have standards.

And, the kicker is, the more we keep giving random guys dirty texts, meaningless hookups, blow jobs and one-night stands to be liked instead of just being comfortable with ourselves and our friends, the more we are creating the expectation from them that “hey this is really all girls want and need. The one’s who aren’t this way are just too emotional and needy.” We are contaminating the pool of eligible partners, whittling away at the available number of men for ALL OF US  and creating an unrealistic expectation for men.

Guys: Being “nice” doesn’t cut it. Sorry. We’re not going to let you get away with anything you want just because you aren’t abusive, or a jerk, or a mysoginist, because you have a stable job and don’t live with your mommy anymore. We want somebody who is assertive, has their own life and personality, doesn’t need us to to complete them, but enjoys our company and us as who we are, not their ideal hussy or trophy wife. While we enjoy getting dressed up and “lookin’ fine next to yo hot body,” we are more likely to hang out in sweatpants than lingerie, eat ice cream out of the carton, and want to snuggle on a regular basis than maintain a flawless appearance 24/7.

Please, separate your self-worth and ability to love yourself from your ability to get laid.

Of course, I have just idealized the heterosexual experience, because, quite frankly that is what I know. However, I would imagine some of the same things apply universally.

And, I must acknowledge one caveat. SEX IS IMPORTANT! It’s right at the base of the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy! We obsess about it for a reason. Its worth exploring with a respectful and compatible partner. Humans are downright carnal, and we have to accept it. We also have to respect it’s incredible power over our lives and obsessions.

Remember: you are worth more than the functionality of your genitalia.

This post could just as easily been opened with the following amusing, but less effective and more offensive excerpt from another blog, and so I will leave you with it: “The first idiotic quick fix of the summer that springs to mind is ABC’s “How to Get the Guy” (10 p.m. Mondays) — a show that would more accurately be called “How to Get A Guy, Any Guy” or better yet, “How to Cast a Great, Big, Wide Net Like the Soulless, Whoring Sea Donkey That You Are.”” — Heather Havrilesky


“To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.” -Bernadette Devlin

Lately, I’ve been noticing how all the things in my life that make me unhappy can be boiled down into a simple category: what I lack. Relationships. Health. Character traits. Posessions. Achievements. Habits. The voids in my life are catching up with me.

And the simple truth of the matter is wallowing in these voids, these “nothings” does absolutely, well, nothing for me.

Zip. Zilch. Zero.

Nothing.

It’s amazing how much the baggage of so much nothing weighs, and once you notice you’re carrying it around everywhere, you realize how much space it takes up in every aspect of your life. In fact, it gets in the way. It’s the elephant in the room, and in my case there’s a whole herd of pachyderms.

I’ve recently started playing video games again after my friend and roommate introduced me to Skyrim. Yes the one with the dragons. Part of what attracted me to giving this storytelling medium a second chance for myself personally is that this game pretty much lets you do what you want, at your own pace, when you want to. You create your own character from the beginning. You select which skills you want to learn. You collect things. You explore. You sell the things you collect on you explorations to make money and buy other cool things. And indeed, all these things are necessary to continue in the game, but you craft your experience quite uniquely. It’s non-linear, organic feeling keeps you engaged. The game physics are believable (unlike Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball) and the limitations of the character, reasonable in a world where magic is real.

But if this entry is anything, it is not a review.

My point in bringing this up is, of course, illustrative. You can only carry so much “stuff” on your travels. The types or armor and weaponry you select define your skill sets and carrying capacity. They also force you to approach confrontational situations or puzzles in certain ways.

In order to collect some really cool items, sometimes you have to let go of other somewhat cool items that you can sell for cash. In order to carry more things, maybe you choose less armor and use archery or magical skills instead. Maybe you carry a shield, and maybe you decide to unleash your fury with dual wielding attacks. Maybe you enlist the help of a CGI friend so they can share the burden of fighting and carry your stuff. But whatever you choose, you can find a way to be successful provided you understand the benefits and drawbacks of why you’re doing what you’re doing in the manner that you’re doing it.

Same thing applies in the real world.

In order to collect cool experiences, you must decide to free up time, and maybe enjoy fewer material possessions. Or, if you are a fan of the creature comforts, maybe you instead decide to work a lot. Whatever you value.

This can be applied in less literal situations as well. Maybe in order to get the relationships you want, you have to give up bad habits that keep you back. Maybe in order to get the job you want you have to give up the one you have, or give up time to learn new skills. Dropping that baggage and kicking those dang elephants out may be the best thing after all. There’s more room for more interesting things that way.

Ok, so now I’m ready for newer, bigger and better things. Allons-y! Away with the baggage! But wait just a moment…

Here come’s the hard part: all your baggage is there because it’s useful. It’s helped you through situations before, protected you, comforted you and benefited you in one way or another. And you’ve made a place for it to stay. You have a system! You know which piece stacks on top of which other piece for maximum baggage toting efficiency!

All of a sudden you are confronted with a new situation in which you can collect a new COOLER item, achievement, or experience, or being with somebody who may actually be GREAT for you. Except, there’s a teensy little catch: you have to remove one or more pieces of that baggage to make it work, rendering your system useless. Completely and utterly useless. This can be and usually is frustrating. It requires figuring out, patience, time, and negotiating. New systems are made. Maybe new baggage will be acquired. More may be lost.

Perhaps efficient baggage management isn’t such a desirable skill after all. Perhaps the “letting go,” the scary, uncomfortable bits, are the times of greatest authenticity and growth possible in a lifetime. The mess is real. And these messy times hurt. I simply hope I leave this life, many years from now, with a net loss of baggage instead of a net gain. Maybe it gets shuffled around a lot, but I think it’s for the best.

“It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.” – Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – )

I get really tired of the disrespectful debate between fundamentalist religious groups and scientists, and end up being entirely dimayed by people who claim to share my faith. This is a post from a while back on one such discussion on a friend’s Facebook page. With some additions to the original.

I am a Christian AND a Scientist. I say this to preface all I am about to say, and will say that I firmly believe and have found support from personal study and inquiry that both creationism and the theory of evolution are NOT mutually exclusive. That being said, parameters must be set as to the language and terms of a discussion on this topic, that tends to anger and incite so many.

1. I am defining science in the following manner, source attached: “The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation [scientific method], and theoretical explanation of phenomena. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena. Such activities applied to an object of inquiry or study.” http://www.journaloftheoretics.com/editorials/vol-1/e1-3.htm

2. If you were to teach creationism in place of evolution as an explanation of why life exists on this planet as a science or in place of science, you would have to be able to empirically prove the existence of God and identify the mechanism by which the world was created–in FACTS and data, not just personal experiences, religious texts, and convictions. Otherwise, creationism must be taught in a social studies, religious studies or bible studies class, or a special class devoted to the debate as to the different schools of thought as to how humans (and other organisms) obtained their current form.

3. Let’s get one thing straight: the word “theory” means completely different things when being used in the common or everyday sense and when being applied to science. In science, theory means the following: “The collection and synthesis of the body of knowledge of a specific or group of natural phenomena that is largely accepted as true and provides a foundation of further study on the topic.” http://science.kennesaw.edu/~rmatson/3380theory.html In the more common sense, theory is defined as follows “A supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” (google dictionary) Note that this second definition is not necessarily based on fact and rigorous data collection, analysis and scrutiny. Gravity, for example is a theory, yet we all observe it. Entire branches of technology (engineering & archetecture, satellites for cell phone/other nefarious use, aerospace/aircraft, etc.) are, however, based on it and we all benefit from these things in our daily lives either directly or indirectly.

4. Uncertainty is a principle that is common to both faith and science. Yet those firmly entrenched on BOTH sides of the debate discredit the opposition when they show uncertainty or unprovable things as part of their argument. Both faith and science rely heavily on things that we sometimes cannot normally see, taste, touch, hear, smell or otherwise normally experience. I don’t have superman vision and cannot see all the germs, viruses, etc that live on my skin and myriad other surfaces, yet I still believe washing my hands and food prep areas will keep me healthy. Yet, I have not proven it on my own. Science simply states uncertainty in the sense that “we’re going to assume these things are correct because all observable evidence suggests they are true. This allows us to move on and investigate this topic further. And we may prove ourselves wrong, but we’re okay with that.”

5. Genetics and DNA were mentioned. The mechanisms of genetics can be mathematically proven to show significant changes in the gene pool over time. This may be enough to create something that evolutionary biologists call “speciation” or the development of a significantly new form of life. FACT.

6. God gave me a brain, and I fully intend to use it to examine all the available data. To not do so would be to not make manifest fully (or as much as possible, because I am not perfect) the gifts that I was given.

7. You can’t pick and choose what you choose to believe about the results of the scientific method. Either you believe it’s credible or not. If you don’t find it credible, throw away all your tech, genetically modified food products, in-vitro fertilization techniques, plastic products, cleaning chemicals, surgical techniques, hope for cures for terminal illnesses and all modern conveniences because these things were not given to us directly by God, but created by human ingenuity.

8. Both science and faith present us with things that are uncomfortable and require things that must be wrestled with. Life experiences, prayer and bible study can reveal truths within ourselves that we find to challenge our currently accepted roles and beliefs within our lives. Similarly, science reveals things about the world around us that are not always compatible with our world view or current acceptance of the world around us. Galileo Galilei suggested that the earth revolves around the sun, a very controversial statement at the time that resulted in him being accused of heresy; this is not not only an established fact now, but the basis for further scientific investigation.

9. Both science and religion have historically mislead people, to gain followers, to gain power, to gain funding, or (as is most often the case) unintentionally due to poor interpretation of the information (bible or data, take your pick). This doesn’t mean that religious followers or scientists are evil or believe in false things.

10. Time: Both God and Scientific understanding have different time scales than what we understand. Geologic data is BILLIONS of years old. 7 days may not be the literal interpretation of the creation of earth.

11. Evolution, defenition: “Evolution is a change in the gene pool of a population over time. A gene is a hereditary unit that can be passed on unaltered for many generations. The gene pool is the set of all genes in a species or population.” http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-intro-to-biology.html Nowhere in evolutionary biology will you find ” …and, quite suddenly, monkeys became human.”

12. To presume that God creates and manufactures life in a way I fully understand would mean I presume to fully know the mind and nature of God. I personally find that to be very arrogant. One interpretation is that science could be a mechanism by which God works in a physical world.

All I ask for people wrestling with the implications of evolution on one’s faith is that they simply examine and allow others to examine the facts and accept that the process of reconciling these things within oneself could take a lifetime.

“He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.” -Confucius

I want to preface all of what is about to come by saying that I have utmost respect for the sacrifices the Military not only makes, but is willing to make on account of the ideology of this country and it’s citizens.

That being said: public service, and patriotic duty extends beyond the military. Far beyond it. And between it. And any preposition you want to place in the midst of patriotic duty and the military, in a grammatical sense and otherwise.

With veterans day fast approaching, I want to also thank the teachers, police, firefighters (both wildland and municipal), IRS auditors, resource managers, city planners, prison guards, civil rights activists, protesters, nurses, social workers and so forth who represent and protect society as a whole for the idea of what society and people can be, and not necessarily what they are. Thank you for dreaming of and protecting a better tomorrow.

“To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the ocean by the frailty of its foam…”

“…to judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconsistencies.” – Kahlil Gibran

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels is considering challenging the current incumbent David Vitter(R-LA) for a senatorial seat.

According to some, her run would show the lack of “any credible challenger” for the Democratic party in contestation of the seat currently held by Vitter, who was linked to a rather sizable, Washington D.C. based prostitution ring geared toward upscale clientele- a link that damaged his “family values” reputation.

“I’ve worked very hard to become top in my industry and be as successful as I am,” Daniels has said in one of her many interviews. Perhaps this is indicative of a greater work ethic than many of those who have been spoon-fed their roles and positions in government currently have.

This movement has become a “cheap political stunt” in the eyes of many and the “Draft Stormy” website leaves much to be desired in terms of quality and coherence. Consider that this a great representation of a grassroots effort.

Yet the press is failing to give Daniels the same respect offered to any other candidate. Story leads frequently note the not-quite”scandalous” attire she chooses to wear at gatherings- the most notable adjectives include “tight,” “plunging,” and “animal print.” None of this is different than about 30 percent ( a number I made up) of most women working in offices.

What makes everyone so quick to discredit her on the basis of not only her sexuality, but her profession? Unlike Vitter, Daniels is at least honest and transparent about her life. Shouldn’t the people touting family values be the quickest to practice forgiveness, one of the more central tenants to family values? It’s not like our political leadership has a “family values” record to be proud of, especially from those who, it would seem, proclaim it loudest.

The press also needs to look beyond this superficiality. If Daniels has something legitimate to say and decent ideas to be implemented in government, maybe that should be reported rather than the shock value of “OMG GUYZ, a PORN STAR is considering running for office.” If she’s a complete and utter political dingbat, ignore her, although it seems that being a political dingbat makes you a media darling (read: Sarah Palin).

I know that myself and other persons out there aren’t exactly fans of adult films, but shunning current and other adult thespians from other career outlets is not exactly an incentive to get them to leave the industry.

If people want to discredit Daniels on the basis of her profession, I would ask them to consider her possible transition to politics as a lateral move. Quality of character is not what you do for a living but how you handle a given situation. All anyone needs is a chance.