happiness is finding the place where being yourself is exactly what's needed

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

thoughts on my first year in bellingham: the city of subdued excitement

The most recent year always seems like the longest. That's how memory works, right? At any given time I can tell you more about what I've done in the past year than what I've done in the rest of my life. 
Now, if you've played Cards Against Humanity with me, you're probably thinking, "yeah right, you can never even remember the last time you pooped." But common/mundane experiences merge together in memory, which is why we hear all kinds of things like, "I can't believe it's already been 14 years since I graduated high school." 
You won't hear that from me, of course. I don't even remember high school. Most of it is just fact-memory, by now. For instance, I remember that I was involved in drama, but I couldn't tell you what kind of parts I had, and I only remember the names of two of the plays I was in: "The Crucible" and "Groovy." I can remember that I lost my virginity senior year, but I don't remember anything about the actual experience besides the excitement of doing something new.
At any rate, if we strive to keep doing new and different things, we make our lives seem longer. I don't want to be one of those senior citizens who, when asked by researchers to name a memory from "half their life ago," automatically thought of something they did in their early 20s. If I'm 80, and someone asks me about "half my life ago" I want to think of something I did at 40. Or 60. Or earlier that day. Already my early 20s are blurring, as thoughts of those days grow less and less valuable to anything I am currently.
We live and we grow.
Someday I will look at this post and think, "Aw, look at the cute little 31 year old. I didn't know ANYTHING back then." 

With that said, my year in Bellingham didn't really bring the type of exciting adventure I'm used to. The kinds of things I write down are usually making new friends, staring new hobbies, discovering new places. I haven't done a lot of that here. There were a couple of each of these things, but I definitely didn't get out and do things as much as I'd hoped.
That's not to say this year was not an adventure, or that there weren't enough things of interest in it to be worthy to be called a year of my life. It's just that the adventure here thus far has been internal. If I evaluate my year in activities, it's equal to about 2 months. But if I evaluate my year in thought time, it's probably about 3 or 4 years, in comparison to what I'm used to.
Does that mean I didn't really know how to use my brain before? Probably, but tomorrow I'll say that about today, and so on and so forth.
Half my life ago? Yeah, I remember that, it was somewhere between the picture down there of the coffee shop and the picture of the coffee cup. Halfway through that cup of coffee, that was half my life ago.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Gee, Ven, you're well on your way to developing dementia." Well, what better place to develop dementia than the city of subdued excitement? 
Some highlights:

my favorite nook in the fairhaven quarter

on a section of trail i always run into when lost and am not sure how to find intentionally

my favorite coffee place here and the robot who guards the door
sometimes walking down the street here looks like wonderland.

i keep taking pictures of this boat. i don't know why. i really like this boat. i kinda wanna live in it.

With all that said, I think I'll rate my first year in Bellingham a 5/5 stars.
I also wrote more in 2013 altogether (Santa Barbara - Bellingham) than in all the other years of my life put together, so that's pretty groovy, too.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

but i never played never have i ever

every day when i check my email and facebook, i have the feeling like there's somewhere else i'm supposed to go (on the internet) or something else i'm supposed to say (on facebook). i'm not sure what the deep recesses of my brain could think i'm forgetting (maybe blogger?), but it always seems like i'm leaving something out. something important.

i seldom have this sensation anymore outside the internet, but i used to get it all the time, especially in my younger years of not legally being an adult, lacking transportation, etc. i always felt like there was somewhere else i needed to be. something i really really should be doing.

something that would make sense to me, make me feel useful, fullfilled, or whatever. the feeling that led up to years of me believing "happiness is finding the place where being yourself is exactly what's needed."

i can understand the human longing to live a life with purpose. that this longing can come along with natural feelings of "am i in the best place for me? am i doing the best things i could be?"

but why has all this focus, in my case, become directed at the internet?

perhaps it's just that our computers are like tiny little windows into a huge and vast world that reaches far beyond our own travels and understandings. it's like looking out car windows as a kid. i don't know what's out there, but i want to be a part of it all.

or maybe it's that i'm so used to moving around and using laptops as the main way i talk to the people i care about, that this little window has become more real to me that what's actually around me. perhaps i'm one of the hive, afterall. it's true that i can find my socks without my smart phone (something i doubt future generations will develop the skills to do), but i seem to still be lacking in a sense of presence in my environment.

i dreamed last night i had contracted one of the first cases of some apocalyptic flu (like in the BBC show Survivors). this combined with my usual feeling of "what is it i'm not doing right now?" and made me think of the movie trope where when people are dying, they say things like "but i never . . . (saw paris/told marsha i loved her/ate pork'n'beans/etc)".

so, that's what i'm asking myself today. were i to suddenly realize i had only days/hours/moments left to live, what's the thing i haven't done in this life that would make me surprised to see it end? what's the thing that i wouldn't feel i'd lived a complete life without having done? what's my "but i never . . ."?

Monday, July 1, 2013

why do so many dreams involve dead cats?

the dream i had this morning:

i was walking along a path. i found what was left of my cat, about half a cat, still alive. i suspected it was "the thing" that did it. (there was apparently some creature that had been going around killing other animals.) my other cat was still walking around outside and i figured i should bring her inside to keep the same thing from happening to her, though i felt guilty about restricting her freedoms. for the moment, i avoided that decision and stayed outside with my dying cat.
she seemed to be in a state of shock. she didn't seem to be in pain or to even realize she was dying. she purred when i pet her. she licked the open air over places where parts of her body would've been had she been whole.
i remembered someone telling me once that when they found their cat dying, they held the cat and nuzzled its forehead with their nose, which kept it calm until it could pass, so that's what i did for a while.
as i held her, she started to appear whole to me, and i wondered if maybe she was going to be okay after all or if i was losing my mind.
after a time, i laid her back down in the grass, and lied down next to her. she continued to appear whole to both me and herself, and she rolled away playfully and batted at my arm just like a living cat would do.
still, i knew she was dying, and i feared she would realize this and start experiencing fear and pain. i picked her up again and started telling her it might be time to move on to the next life. i prayed for a peaceful transition for her.
she turned into a human in my arms and turned suddenly away from me, looking at an invisible presence to my left and calling, "Chris! Chris is that you?"
i realized this "Chris" was probably someone she'd known who'd died, come to guide her spirit on its path. she flailed her arms and legs but didn't seem able to rise from my hold.
"yes, Chris," i said, "please help her. i don't know what else to do." i turned my head respectfully away.

then i woke up. first thought upon waking up this morning: i'm glad my cats are already dead, so nothing like that can ever happen.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

are you SURE i never had a cat?

i'd like to take just a few minutes this morning to talk about something that can be super annoying: dream memories.

you know what i mean. when in your dream you remember another dream you had months, maybe years, before.

the problem with dream memories is that they have a way of actually feeling even more real to me than real memories, and that's one of the ways i tell them apart from stuff that actually happened. but i always wake up with that same feeling in my head, afterward, that "holy crap how could i have forgotten that?" sensation.

in dreams, of course, emotions are heightened, so something too ridiculous to ever happen in real life could be a catastrophic event in a dream. and the emotional impact is part of what makes them so believable.

what my brain seems to be going in this situations is picking through pieces of reality and forging a bunch of shit together that doesn't belong, in order to explain something i'm confused about in real life.

- - -

here's a made up example:

let's say you've always wanted a cat but never had one. so, one time, you have a dream that you have a cat, but you're brain knows you really don't have a cat, so, before you wake up, it gives you a reason why you don't have a cat anymore. at the end of the dream, your friend gets bit by your cat and takes it away to an animal shelter.

so, years later, still with no cat, you have a dream again that you're just walking along minding your own damn business, and something triggers the memory of your lost cat. your first thoughts are "holy crap, it all makes sense now! that's why i don't have a cat, and why Larry has always been so awkward around me! how could i have forgotten that he stole my cat?"

so, then, you wake up, all ready to go punch Larry in the face for stealing your cat.

the dream feels so real, real enough that it probably is just as real, at least to your brain, at least for a moment, as anything that's ever really happened. it is now, however, a part of the same reality you share with all these other people, and you realize that once you dissect that.

as you're lying in bad and some part of you is still going "what the fuck?" you remember that Larry lives in another town, and has never visited you at the house in which your dream took place, so, even if you'd ever had a cat there, it never interacted with Larry. besides, you didn't have a cat, your roommate was allergic. your feelings of loss are just an enhanced dream interpretation of the minor sadness you experience daily because you've never had a roommate that allowed pets.

and its good that these things can be realized in a matter of minutes. you don't want to go punch your friend in the face for stealing your cat, when you never even had a cat.

- - -

but here's the most annoying thing, at least for me, about dream memories:

you know why i used a made up example, and not a real dream of mine? because the emotional residue of this shit stays for a long time after, making me not want to talk about the dream ever, no matter how silly it was.

and, for me, what makes these scenarios more difficult to talk about that even my worst and most emotional and tragic and bloody and horrible dreams, is that the emotion behind them usually has a lot to do with shame and/or embarassment. even though they don't make any sense. like getting locked in solitary confinement at work for messing something up.

sometimes i even remember the same scenarios in other dreams over the years. (not necessarily related to my recurring dream themes, with i'll discuss in another post.) and in those later dreams, i tend to get mad at myself for forgetting whatever it was, knowing i recently remembered it and then dismissed it from memory.

- - -

i'm not checking this for typos, so sorry. it's more important to me, right now, that i remedy my lack of coffee, as i just crawled out of bed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

leave me to wander alone, and this is what happens

today was one of my rare saturdays off. i asked for it off last month to go camping, but then the camping trip was cancelled, so i found myself contemplating what possible things i could fill today with and came up with reading Wise Man's Fear at Muddy Waters (my current favorite book and my favorite local coffee house).

i spent about 5 hours there reading in my favorite comfy chair in the corner, drinking delicious coffee and a bagel with avocado and swiss, reminiscent of my times at Shot In The Dark Cafe in Tucson. the weather was amazing, too, with the perfect amount of sunlight and all the right scents in the air. i came to the conclusion that i might be the happiest person alive.

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, with a bookmark from Tempe, AZ
(on another note, there's a cool character in the book called Tempi)

when i felt the urge to wander to the next part of my day, i did so, not knowing yet what the next part of my day would be. while walking, i decided i would get a tattoo today. i wasn't sure if i wanted to get Kokopelli on my right arm under my friendship symbol or the chorus of my favorite song "dirty face, dirty hands, dirty mind, i feel fine" on my left, under Mishipeshu. i've been feeling the urge to finally get my Kokopelli lately, but i've always felt i should get him done in Arizona.

at any rate, i figured i would let my feet carry me to the next part of my day. if i ended up finding a tattoo place on my path, i would get a tattoo. if not, i'd probably wind up back at the house with an evening pot of coffee and an open notebook. either way sounded fine, since i was walking around with that bliss you get from being in the middle of a great book.

while walking through a quiet neighborhood, i started getting closer to an elderly woman also walking on the sidewalk. knowing that i sometimes scare people when i come up to quickly behind them, i veered off the sidewalk for what was meant to be a few lengthy strides. it ended up being me slipping and landing in an awkward heap in the mud.

i was laughing instantly, and the concerned look the woman on the sidewalk gave me was certainly no cause to end that laughter. removing my earbuds as i got back up, i said "serves me right for walking in the mud."

the woman was rather kind. she offered to let me come into her house to wash up, but i declined, as only one knee and one hand were very muddy. she told me that she's legally blind and falls a lot, and she told me a story about how she once tripped over a construction cone in a crosswalk and landed right on the hood of a car, and no one stopped to help her or ask if she was alright. i made a mental note to offer assistance if ever i see someone fall, which isn't necessarily the norm here in SB.

walking away, i pondered the significant of falling into the mud because i was trying to avoid an obstacle and not paying enough attention to the path i was taking around said obstacle, an obstacle that turned out to be a rather nice person. seemed like a good lesson. then i realized how if i hadn't slipped, i would've talked to one less interesting person today, so i added that to the thought pile.

then, of course, while rubbing my palms together to remove as much of the dried dirt as i could, i laughed because my hands were dirty. "dirty face, dirty hands, dirty mind," then. i had my answer.

eventually my feet carried me to a somewhat familiar intersection close to where i live. i had the distinct feeling there was something important here, and suddenly i was all but tripping over a sign that read "tattoos."

there was no obvious entrance to this place. it was up a windy little staircase, which suited my sense of adventure rather nicely, even though i was a little nervous at first, thinking i was about to walk unannounced into someone's home. but fortunate smiled, and it was, in fact, a tattoo parlor.

i walked in the room to get inked, and there was the girl who'd been working at the coffee place when i showed up, also getting inked. we'd left at different times and somehow both ended up here. we chatted a bit about our tattoos, while some friendly fellows drew on us with needles, and i felt like i'd made another small but interesting human connection today.

on my way back to the house, i was thinking about how when i got my first tattoo, the friendship symbol in Tucson. i'd just been sitting there writing at Shot In The Dark and idly scratched my old symbol onto the paper. shortly after, a friend of mine i hadn't seen in a while, had no way of contacting, and had been hoping to run into showed up. we chatted for a bit, made further plans, and then i went to the tattoo place next door and had the girl put my symbol on my arm, as a way of feeling always connected to my friends, i suppose, though near or far.
that little friendship symbol i leave everywhere

i thought about when that was. 2008. i laughed. this is 2012, and my Mishipeshu is from 2010. what, do i get a tattoo in a different state every two years? i laughed harder when i realized that the other ones, though i don't remember exact dates, were also gotten in Oct. it was Oct. 2008, when i first moved to Tucson, and i got the tattoo within a few days of being there.

Mishipeshu was a going away present from a buddy in Michigan, when i moved to Tucson for a second time, in an October 2 years later.

creature of habit much? 

the chorus of "Dirty Mind" by The Miller Stain Limit, beneath Mishipeshu

I'll leave you with a quote from Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, page 556:

"It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he'll look for his own answers." [...] "That way, when he finds the answers, they'll be precious to him. The harder the question, the harder we hunt. The harder we hunt, the more we learn."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

the world used to seem so small

the world used to seem so large and full of wonder. i'd walk around like a wide-eyed child, seeing so much everywhere i looked. i'd have trouble choosing between soaps for the bathroom, because i wondered what each would say about my personality. i wanted to make sure i was drawing the right energy. i'd look at each and envision the kind of person who might buy them, envision their whole lives and pick the one i most wanted to identify with at the moment.
stuff like that.
but as we learn and grow, we realize that every individual personality is a combination of choices. every choice is more immensely complicated than another person could possibly imagine.
so, let's take that a level more inward.
i set myself up for the kind of evening i want to have by envisioning a scene that fits more current mood and/or what feelings i want to have/work with later. then i look around for the props.
it's like when children see something they want and then have difficulty reconciling with themselves why they can't have it. it's because when they look at something, a whole world builds up around it.
so, most people probably have that type of wonder beaten out of them by the time they're 3. i, however, was always a very introspective and sneaky child. i was able to hide it until almost 30, when thoughts like this started breaking through into my conversations.
the things i look for. why i look for them. the things i hope to create.
i woke up this morning with a new sense of sadness. it was the sadness of knowing i would never look into the world again with such wonder and naivety.
but as i thought it over, thought about the ways i used to think, i realize the world was so much smaller to me, then.
in a way it seemed bigger. the world was huge and i was small, wandering through it unnoticed.
looking back, i realize the world was smaller. or, at least, i was perceiving much less of it.
the sense of wonder has only vanished because my mind has realized all is wonder. there's nothing particularly less worth wondering about than anything else. my mind is more open, and the only thing i'm missing out on is the ability to dwell.
and yet i no longer feel small in comparison to the world. i'm an equal piece to any other piece, and the world is not only one great thing, but a collection of pieces, of which i am one. it'll never be the world against me. i'm part of it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the debate class in my head

whenever a reasonably sized issue seems to arise, before i form a solid opinion, i bring it to the debate class in my head. the classroom is the room where i had a class with my favorite professor. the teacher is a combination of him and a couple other favorite professors of mine.
there's always been about 20 students, and over the years, i've gained more understanding of each of their varying opinions and experiences. so far, there's only about 6 that i feel i really know.
i have them discuss the things that i wonder about, and try to experience the debate through each person as they're speaking.
some of their attitudes seem cliche at first, until i dig deeper into their individual awarenesses. how they relate to one another, changes according to the debate.
some of them have always been big thinkers, and some of them haven't. but, here, they all must look into themselves equally, to find the places from which they're looking at the world.
just like in a real class, the students are continually gaining new perspectives from one another, and so each debate brings with it slightly more complicated opinions.