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Memores acti prudentes futuri


I caught a piece of the sunshine
burned a little hole in me
A few words
"When we describe the Moon as dead, we are describing the deadness in ourselves. When we find space so hideously void, we are describing our own unbearable emptiness."
~ D.H. Lawrence

"Is the meaning of life defined by its duration? Or does life have a purpose so large that it doesn't have to be prolonged at any cost to preserve its meaning?"

"Living is not good, but living well. The wise man, therefore, lives as well as he should, not as long as he can... He will always think of life in terms of quality not quantity... Dying early or late is of no relevance, dying well or ill is... even if it is true that while there is life there is hope, life is not to be bought at any cost."
~ Seneca

"People will tell you nothing matters, the whole world's about to end soon anyway. Those people are looking at life the wrong way. I mean, things don't need to last forever to be perfect."
~ Daydream Nation

"All Bette's stories have happy endings. That's because she knows where to stop. She's realized the real problem with stories-- if you keep them going long enough, they always end in death."
~ The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes

"The road now stretched across open country, and it occurred to me - not by way of protest, not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a novel experience - that since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good. It was a pleasant diaphragmal melting, with elements of diffused tactility, all this enhanced by the thought that nothing could be nearer to the elimination of basic physical laws than deliberately driving on the wrong site of the road."
~ Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
~ William Blake
TICoSME
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free counters
Was only temporary... [2P]
Monday, August 21, 2017
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ECS meetup went well
Sunday, August 20, 2017
I had a really good experience with the meetup I went to today. Went to the Ethical Culture Society platform on current ethical issues. It was mildly like a church service, which was interesting, as I haven't been to anything like that of my own accord in years. I enjoyed it though, as campy as parts of it were. They had secular live music that everyone sang the chorus to, and there was something like a lecture, but group participation in the form of comments and questions was encouraged.

The lecture was about religion and its function, how it works and what it does right and wrong. It wasn't about slamming religion in general-- although one of the two speakers did ask the audience at the start what some of the things they didn't like about religion were. Mainly it was about what religion provides that people value and need, and how to find those aspects without the blind faith, dogma, and demanded conformity that so often plagues organized religions. Interestingly, they pointed out that when religions start, they're headed by people who are distinctly non-conformist-- freethinkers who attract a crowd with their different ideas. Once those leaders die, though, religions tend to become more dogmatic and rigid, as the successors try to codify the teachings of the prophets to preserve them. Then, some new freethinker comes along and shakes up the system, and the cycle repeats. The proposition set forth by the speakers was that religions serve as a survival tool, and that science is actually something of a spiritual successor to religion, in that it gives us a way to organize our world and understand it. There is a pretty big difference of course, in that science, despite having certain rules and basic assumptions, encourages flexibility and open-mindedness and doesn't advocate unquestioning allegiance.

There ARE people who treat science like a religion (scientism), but science is not a religion per se. People who play by the rules, conduct rigorous research, and come up with conclusions that seem counter to what "should be" scientific have made observations about this. It's not scientific to definitively declare that ghosts don't exist, for example, unless you can conclusively prove that ghosts don't exist. Until then you just have to remain in an agnostic position about it. Yet there are scientists who will fight tooth and nail against an idea like that, claiming it's too woowoo and supernatural to be scientific. Science is a tool for discovering truth, not a truth in itself. I think this is something that many people don't understand, and so you get people who fight against science because they think it's just a bunch of people in white lab coats being smug jerks who say "god doesn't exist because SCIENCE." Meanwhile there are plenty of scientists who are also religious, because science doesn't actually conflict with religious beliefs unless your religion says you're not allowed to question anything in it or investigate the world.

Partway through the talk, this shirtless guy started rummaging through the refreshments in the back of the room, and someone went to go talk to him. A bit later, he started messing with the camera that they were using to record the talk, and the speakers paused while the situation was dealt with. There wasn't too much commotion-- a man asked the shirtless guy if he needed help, and they asked him not to be disruptive-- but it quickly became evident that the shirtless guy was not going to stop (he seemed like he might be mentally ill), so they asked him to leave, though not before offering to give him some food to take with him. It was handled pretty calmly and respectfully, I think, although there definitely was some tension because of this random shirtless old guy making a bunch of noise in the back and interrupting the talk. Someone took him outside and talked to him, and the speakers discussed what had just happened and how the room had reacted to the disruption, as well as what we could take away from the incident. Since it was my first time, I had no idea if that guy was a regular attendee of the meetings or what was going on, but when I asked the people around me, it seemed that nobody had ever seen him before or knew who he was. I found out afterwards that he was just some dude who lived in his car and that in addition to coming to our meeting and going through the food, he had left the radio in his car playing so loudly that it disrupted a meeting in a nearby community center as well. Apparently the police were called to help him. (The police in that area tend to be friendly and helpful rather than aggressive and callous, a fact which my seat neighbor noted when she was recommending that we call the police to help the shirtless guy).

So, yeah, I enjoyed the meetup a lot, and they have other types of meetups as well for this group, so I'm thinking I'll try to go to the book club they're holding next week. The book is Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, and I got the audiobook from the library online. It's pretty interesting so far, but I don't like audiobooks much and I wish I had a physical copy instead. This book is only ~200 pages but the audiobook is almost five hours long. >_> I don't think it would take me nearly that long to just read it on my own... And I'd probably process it better too... Ah well.

---

Had a talk with my friend today about where we stand and possible ways to work things out. It doesn't seem like there's a way we can compromise, at least not in our current life situations, but I feel better having had the conversation. I feel... more able to accept things, I guess. Like, it sucks, but now I have a better sense of it all, and I'm okay with that. It's sad but I feel at peace.

---

I stumbled upon the artist Jesus Leguizamo tonight and I like his stuff. I think this one is called "Gypsy Head".

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Gaps, stupid hair [2P]
Saturday, August 19, 2017
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Things I miss; (lack of) descriptors
Friday, August 18, 2017
"Please Be My Third Eye" by La Sera.

I can feel your heartbeat
When my mind is clear
I can see your visions
There's nothing to fear

Will you please be my third eye tonight?


---

There are some things I miss about being in a relationship, and I've been thinking about those tonight.

Just remembering things like getting into a game together, like a hack-n-slash or an RPG, developing some kind of pattern or strategy for how we played. I like melee characters, and summoning stuff to fight, not interested in potions or status effects, that sort of thing. It's nice to have someone who balances me in that regard. I get tired of games so quickly once I hit the double digits of hours played, but having someone to play with, and having a specific game to play with them, keeps me interested.

It was also nice to go on walks, and go shopping for things we needed (or, I guess in some cases, for things I decided that he needed... like Kleenex). Going out is nice, though I'm not much for things that are too wild. Trying new restaurants is one of my favorite things to do with a partner, although they've had varying levels of enthusiasm for it.

I miss... having someone to dress up for, someone to look cute for. I'm not much interested in impressing strangers. It is fun sometimes, if I have time to kill, to experiment with different outfits I guess, but I don't really feel like I'm very into fashion without someone specific in mind.

I like having someone to share what I'm learning with, although I guess that's a bit less applicable now that I'm not currently in school. I feel like I'm usually learning something, though, and I enjoy talking about that with someone. Tonight I decided to make an account on Meetup.com and was looking through the groups to see if there was anything that appealed to me. Mostly there wasn't, but there's an ethical culture society that seems promising... I get the impression that it's mainly older people, but that's okay. This is the kind of thing I wish I had someone to go with me to, though.

Making a Meetup account has gotten me thinking about what my interests and hobbies are. I never know how to define those, and I haven't in a long time, maybe since high school. Most of the time I just rely on what I know I used to like and kinda use those things as the default. What's interesting to me about this particular characteristic of myself is that people seem to generally find me interesting despite my lack of clearly defined interests. Maybe my vagueness makes me seem mysterious and people imagine that I'm hiding all sorts of complex cool things they don't know about, or something. Orrrrrrrr maybe it's just that I think about things very in depth and that comes out when I talk. More likely that, I guess.

I hate being asked to describe myself because I legitimately don't know what to say other than the very basic stuff I know applies to me as far as other people see me. Age, ethnicity, gender, etc. Tick off those boxes in the demographics section. I could use analogies that would have more meaning to me but that would be lost on the other party, and there's no point to saying it if it doesn't communicate anything of value to the person you're talking to, as far as I'm concerned. In my opinion, talking should be an exchange of information... so why talk if what you're saying won't be received by the other person in any meaningful way?

Then again, it's hard to know how the other person will receive what you're saying to them... And goodness knows I have a tendency to tell people less and less over time as they react in ways that erode my faith that they're getting what I'm saying. When I think about the way my reflex to clam up like this, I feel like my instincts are a giant clothespin that I'm caught inside, and I'm trying to keep it propped open with my arms.

Sometimes I just get tired of fighting it. Still trying, though.

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Trying to do the right thing [4P]
Thursday, August 17, 2017
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I exist on the internet again
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
The past week felt like a different lifetime. Now I'm back to what I guess is my "normal" life and I feel sort of odd, as if I were just created in this space with memories of a past life that I didn't really live through. Like... a Sim designed as an adult, with some assumed background context that doesn't really exist.

In a way, it feels like there's never been anything but this present moment, and there never will be anything more. Not that these feelings are anything to take literally.

I spent a lot of time with friends over the past few days. It was nice, but also a bit draining when it was groups of people. Maybe I'm just kind of recovering from that.

Also, I went with my friend to Fry's to find a universal adapter, and that particular location had a mattress department, so I sat on one of the beds, then decided to run and jump onto a different mattress... but it turned out to be a box spring, so now I have some big ol' bruises on my knees, and it kind of messed up my right hand for a couple days. Really giving some heft to that saying 'look before you leap,' I guess.

I don't know why, but I feel super tired. I think I slept enough last night, but I just keep wanting to go back to bed.

---

There were a lot of things I thought about writing here, but one of the exciting ones is that I opened Chrome dev tools on OKC and found a recruitment challenge that my friend from IRC is now solving, and he's giving a play by play of it in the channel. I don't understand what's involved but it's fun to follow along.

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Progress recap
Monday, August 7, 2017
Alright, so in the last entry I said I might write about things I automatically do now that I think contribute to me having better interpersonal interactions. I'm actually gonna do it! Sometimes I say I'm going to write about something and then I don't revisit it until much later, but there's still a bit of inspiration lingering in me, so I'll speak more on this subject. I think this is more geared at friendships/interactions with the same people over time than at one-shot interactions with strangers, but hey, you never know what might come in handy.

Just a disclaimer: I've put basically no thought into how I might organize this, but I guess maybe a list would make things nice and readable? I thought about doing contrast examples using an old conversation where I had some kind of communication problem, but I don't know where I'd have to look to dig something like that up, or if I even have anything saved. Also, this isn't a how-to guide, it's just what I've found helpful for me, moving from the person I was to the person I am and the person I want to be.

Kind of wish I had been more careful to document changes as they were happening, as I think a lot of these were not as gradual transformations the way you might expect. In a number of cases I just decided that something I was doing wasn't what I wanted to be doing, so I changed it. Sort of like... how I went pescetarian. If I really believe in something then I just do it cold turkey, no long transition. I mean, yeah, stuff takes practice to get right, but generally I made some kind of conscious decision to change and just charged on from there. I think most of these are going to sound kind of obvious and cliché, because they get passed around a lot, but from what I can tell, often people don't do the work of defining the concepts for themselves and putting them into practice.

So, in no particular order, here are the things I can think of off the top of my head; they sort of blend together in some areas, so there might be repetition:

1. Constructing an outline of the conversation in my head (or trying to).

I don't have a great short term memory for conversations, and it's helpful to me to try and pick out the major points when I'm talking to someone so that I can keep track of what we're talking about and what we've covered already. Admittedly this is something that contributes more to debates, as there's usually some central theme in the argument that I need to hold onto in order to see where all the details fit in. I used to get pretty lost in arguments, and it was easy to feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed makes it easier to react emotionally and unnecessarily home in on statements that are more peripheral to the conversation than central to it, which distracts from the topic at hand and overall isn't productive. This is just something that helps me focus.

2. Giving people the benefit of the doubt.

I try to assume that people have good intentions and would not randomly do something to hurt me or others. A few years ago it was very easy for me to take someone's bad day personally and get highly anxious that they were angry with me in particular if they were short with me. Similarly, if someone didn't talk to me for awhile, I might think they didn't like me anymore or something was wrong with our friendship. Nowadays I often tell myself that if a friend isn't talking to me, the more likely scenario is that they're busy, and it's fine for people to be busy. This has helped reduce some of the friction between me and Kyle, I think. I used to feel extremely neglected when he didn't respond to me, but I'm more able to let it go now, and I recognize that he's got a lot going on in his life that keeps him from chatting with me as much as I might like. AT THE SAME TIME, I don't excuse bad behavior if it repeatedly shows up and that person has been made aware of it. People still have personal responsibility, and even if they're stressed out or life has been kicking them when they're down, that doesn't mean it's fine for them to treat me or other people without care or respect. I am forgiving when people don't know, but if they do know, then they should be acknowledging their behavior at the very least, and preferably doing something to improve.

3. Not immediately attributing people's actions to their character.

I mentioned the fundamental attribution error before, and this is related to that. Basically, I look for signs that someone's environment is affecting them before I assume things about their personality/character. This is another way of giving people the benefit of the doubt. I tend to assume that people will be fairly reasonable and not be dicks unprovoked if their needs are being met and they're not under too much stress. Whether or not that comes off as naive to some, it's helped me feel more compassionate towards people than I used to be (i.e. in high school), and has also helped to reduce my feelings of irritation, anger, and cynicism. It's a lot easier to live in a world where people seem like they're basically good and just making some mistakes or bad decisions than in a world where people are bad and they suck.

4. Taking a step back.

I think this ties in to cultivating more patience overall, in some way. A couple of my absolute favorite classes in community college were the astronomy classes I took, because they were held in the planetarium and we got to watch these really cool simulations of space. There were some that showed the scale of the galaxy, and zoomed out from Earth to show the other planets, and then the sun, and then other stars that were even bigger, and so on. I find it calming to think about this from time to time, because it reminds me that no matter how big something feels in the moment, in the grand scheme of things, everything that happens in my life is very small against the scale of the universe. I don't need to stubbornly hold onto positions in an argument I probably won't even remember in a couple weeks. I don't need to hold grudges (although I still do, sometimes; I'm not perfect, haha). This helps me feel less anxious about screwing up in social settings, too. Nobody's gonna remember it, and really, my whole life isn't even a blink in the timeline of existence. Also related to this but not quite the same thing: Trying to look at things from outside my own perspective. Taking a step back from myself to imagine how things look to the person I'm talking to (and not just some strawman version of the person I'm talking to, but actually them) helps me maintain some balance.

5. Not making assumptions about what things mean.

Pretty straightforward, although this is one of the things I think about a lot. After Kyle and I had our falling out following our breakup in 2010, I was thrown into a panic that we'd been misunderstanding each other all the time and any connection I'd felt with him had been a lie. That feeling still comes back from time to time, so I try my best to make sure I'm on the same page with people instead of assuming that we have the same definitions for things. Do I feel awkward and anxious asking for clarification so much? Yeah, sure, although significantly less than I used to. I find that people usually appreciate my efforts to understand them, though, except in certain cases where they get annoyed and just say "you know what I mean." Not everybody uses words and phrases in the same way, and I would rather be cautious and ask what someone means (either by putting things in my own words and checking for confirmation that I'm right or asking them to elaborate) and risk some embarrassment or redundancy than potentially run into miscommunication. I end up saying "How so?", "What do you mean?", "Sometimes I feel/think ___ in this situation, is it like that?" and so on a lot.

6. Expressing appreciation and positive observations.

Surprise surprise, people aren't gonna know how I feel unless I tell them. Anyway, I don't know how much of a problem this is for other people, but I wasn't really raised to compliment, and I've had to learn how to tell people positive things. I wasn't raised with a lot of praise or validation, so those are things I've been figuring out how to navigate as an adult. More than one of my exes has told me that I didn't appreciate them enough, and I credit those relationships with showing me that it was something I really needed to show more. I've been trying to increase my gratitude and appreciation for my life in general, and naturally that includes telling people when I appreciate something they say or do. Even though it's still excessively hard for me to tell people that I think highly of them in person (I get extremely anxious and choke up in person), I'm trying to make more positive comments (e.g. "Thank you for listening," "I thought it was really insightful when you said ___"). Especially trying to do this unprompted, as that is a scarier situation to do it in, and I have this sort of exposure-therapy mindset where the scary things are the most important ones to do, because after that, everything else will seem easy.

7. Giving context and definitions for things to reduce confusion.

In Lit classes one of the things the teachers frequently told us was to write for an audience that knew nothing about the subject we were discussing. I've tried to take this to heart for conversations too, because I think it's nicer that way. So for example, if I'm talking to a new person and I mention someone I know, I might say "I was talking to Kyle (my best male friend)" as opposed to "I was talking to Kyle," or worse, "I was talking to my friend," because... well... knowing some background details helps flesh things out a bit, and then the other person doesn't have to ask who Kyle is if they don't know. There are some people who regularly vent to me without actually telling me who any of the other people they're referencing are, and that makes it hard to follow the ongoing narrative of their lives if I have no idea who all the characters in their story are. I will sometimes just say "my friend" if who they are really has no relevance to the story, or if I'm talking to someone I'll probably never talk to again, but otherwise I try to make it more clear. When I catch myself, I also try to explain what assumptions I have going into something.

8. Checking in with the other person.

Knowing how the other person is feeling and where they're at makes it SOOOOOO much easier to have a smooth interaction. I don't mean that I say "how are you feeling?" every ten minutes or anything, but if anything seems off or they said something weird, then I try to ask what's on their mind. Basically, I don't know how they're doing unless I ask, and I don't want to assume. Checking in also helps set the ground for how I interpret their words.

9. Addressing problems as soon as possible.

If I can, I think it's better to address a problem as soon as it happens, but sometimes that's not the best approach, because if there's been an argument or a miscommunication of some kind, people (including me) might need a moment to calm down. Letting things go without addressing them just paves the way for buildup of resentment though, and stuff like that is toxic for relationships. Plus, it just feels good to resolve things!

10. Not taking things personally.

I previously posted a picture I used to have as my desktop background, of Borb saying "it's not about u." Basically, I just keep in mind that not everything that's said has to directly pertain to me, and I don't assume that things are related to me unless they're explicitly laid out that way. This one makes a world of difference in not feeling offended by things! It also helps with my shyness/social anxiety, because it's a lot harder to feel scared of interactions if it doesn't feel like people are actually focused on me. Subnormality did a really good job of illustrating this concept (first two panels). The world doesn't revolve around me. I am not a main character in most people's stories, and I don't have the relevance of one to them. More often than not, people are not thinking about me or directing their attention toward me, and knowing that helps take off some of the pressure to do things "right" all the time. I find it safer to assume people probably aren't thinking about me unless they say otherwise.

11. Being mindful of my own reactions, thoughts, and feelings.

I find it funny that this can be summed up in a sentence when it's such an immense undertaking and has taken me years upon years to get better at. When I was a teenager, I used to think "well, if I get PMS anger then I'll just notice that I'm angry and realize it's PMS and it won't affect me, how hard can that be?" As it turns out though, it's really damn hard to notice how you're feeling and how it's affecting you when you're enveloped in emotion. Noticing physiological signs is helpful to me. If my heart rate goes up, or I feel warmer than usual, or my body is tense, that can be a clue that I'm angry. I have some sense of what my baseline emotional state is like when I'm calm, so I try to check myself against that... Like, "would I normally get so worked up over this?" I also try to think about my reactions after an interaction has concluded, to analyze what happened and what I think I did well and what I could do better. As a teenager I fought a lot with my mom, but things are much more... chill now. There are definitely still situations that could turn into fights, but now I am more aware of when I'm starting to get riled up, and I can calm myself down instead of letting it escalate. In one of the interactions I had with her recently, she wasn't letting me finish what I was saying and was making negative character assumptions about me (i.e. I'm tactless and say socially inappropriate things), and this would have infuriated me as a teenager but I wouldn't have known why. In this instance, I noticed that I was starting to get irritated, but I asked her if she would let me finish telling her what happened, and afterwards she admitted that I hadn't actually acted the way she thought I had, and had patched up the situation I was talking about successfully. My mom has her flaws, but she's willing to admit fault if you can talk to her calmly and not get drawn into her emotional and irrational jumping-to-conclusions style of communication.

12. Staying aware of signs of miscommunication.

Do I suddenly feel angry? Does the other person suddenly seem angry? I'm using "angry" as a placeholder emotion for negative emotions here. If it seems like the tone of the conversation has suddenly changed, or I feel like I'm lost, then I pay attention to that and try to talk to the other person about it, or I wait and hold my emotions in abeyance, proceeding as if I were naturally feeling calm, to see where things are headed. This has saved me a lot of times when I've had a knee-jerk reaction but haven't known for sure what someone was saying until I asked for clarification.

13. Looking for patterns over time instead of drawing conclusions based on one incident.

I feel like this is kind of self-explanatory, but that might be overly assumptive of me, and like everything, it's easier in theory than in practice. Suspending judgement until a definitive pattern emerges can be hard, since so much of the time we make automatic judgements about things. There are very few conclusions you can for sure make based on a single instance of something (e.g. murdering someone once makes you a murderer; raping someone once makes you a rapist). A person stealing once doesn't make them a thief, and a person donating to charity once doesn't make them altruistic. Context matters. When I was younger I was less willing to wait things out and see how people acted over time, and I completely cut a few people out of my life because of some individual interaction I didn't like. While I wasn't obligated to keep talking to them or anything, I think my actions weren't particularly reasonable, and it's not something I would do now.

14. Taking people seriously, but not always literally.

I totally stole the wording for this one from a Donna Orange quote from a class lecture this past school year. Maybe it's from growing up in a generally pretty safe environment, but I'm pretty trusting, and in some cases gullible. Less gullible than I used to be, I hope, but I'm sure there are still traces of it. That aside, a lot of people explain events from their point of view. No duh, right? The problem is that I used to take their word as the absolute truth. It's not that people are trying to bend the truth or lie, but everyone interprets things differently, and that's something I have to keep in mind. There isn't necessarily an objective truth, either, but some things will be closer to "what actually happened" than others. In a previous period of my life I might get upset at people for telling me a story in a way other than it "actually happened" and feel like they were intentionally lying to me, but as I've mellowed out it's become more evident to me that people aren't trying to deceive me. The way people tell their stories might not align with objective facts, but it does tell you about them and their feelings, and that part of it is something to take seriously. When we were kids, my brother would constantly accuse me of doing things to trip him up or mess with him, such as spitting in his soup. I never once spat in his soup, and I repeatedly told him so, but that didn't make him stop the accusations. Looking back, I wonder more what made him so paranoid that he thought I would be trying to sabotage him all the time. How did he perceive me? What unspoken beliefs did he have that were influencing him to think I was out to get him? There was a lot of information in those interactions that I didn't know how to read yet.

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Oof, this has taken me like three hours to write. Normally when I'm writing posts I'm kind of distracted and I just let it sit for several hours while I do other things, writing a sentence here and there, but I've actually been writing for three hours. Hoo boy. I'm sure there are other things I forgot or haven't elaborated enough, but this monster of a post is already over 3000 words and I think that's enough for now. If only writing academic papers was this easy, haha.

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Avoiding landmines [DP]
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Be it extremely emotional, controversial, messed up, or whatever, this entry has been password protected.

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