Things That I Would Do If I Had Time and an Attention Span

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  1. Read all of the books in my queue that I already own
  2. Borrow more books from other people and read them
  3. Borrow more books from the library and read them
  4. Go back and properly tag/categorize all of these blog posts
  5. Rewrite or delete a lot of these blog posts
  6. Get around to watching all of those TV series people tell me I have to see
  7. Listen to the past decade’s noteworthy music
  8. Practice writing until I’m good enough to get paid for it
  9. Work up the courage to submit writing to get paid for it
  10. Use getting paid for writing as a consolation for my anxieties over not making enough money despite the fact that I’m making more money than I ever have in my life
  11. Rewrite and delete a lot of the items on this list

The New Society Pages

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Back when not everybody was on the internet, we were in pocketed communities. There were people I could communicate with and tell things to about my life, directly and discretely, more or less. There was a pretty good chance news wouldn’t spread so quickly, and I always had somebody disconnected from the situation and the other spheres of my life who could and would listen and understand to a degree what I was feeling.

Now I need to muzzle myself from expressing things in general. Anybody can find it. I’m not talking about scandalous or embarrassing things; it’s often the tediousness, oversharing the mundane, or giving a ticker of live events that are not meant for play-by-play coverage. Smaller groups know the rules – it’s understood to what degree saying something is inviting advice; it’s a small conversation that accumulates in context and isn’t so easily joined by third parties.

The more thorough and open the network, though, the more people can pick up blips of incomplete information and chime in uninvited. It’s essentially dangerous to put anything of substance anywhere, no matter how casual in nature, unless it’s designed in the kind of newspaper announcement format that this has rendered obsolete.

The internet has become a much weaker social network ever since social networking came around.

Drama Queens and Self-Inflicted Suffering

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I get the sense sometimes that because I don’t talk much about how busy I am and how backed up my workload is, I appear to be lazier, less competent, and have a lower work ethic. I’ve been familiar with this trick my entire life. The longer you play it, the more convinced you are of your own burden.

I don’t mean to dismiss the stress and suffocation of people who do feel busy and that their work is overwhelming. It’s real, and it’s causing physical symptoms. But the dismissal that I may be lazy because I don’t call everything that comes across my desk “brutal”; that I do less work than others because I take a lunch; that things are unfair because I have the time to help people but rarely myself ask for help (let that logic sink in) – these are ways that an individual turns their stress outwards into comparisons and competitions.

By not doing this, I often do the opposite. I take other people’s stress as a measure of my luck, leisure, and luxury, then feel really, really guilty about it. I should be suffering – it’s just what the cult of guilt that’s been passed through my cultural background in both religious and secular manifestations has drilled into my head. This is likely where those visibly stressed pick up some of their habits as well. Misery is the only metric of how well you’re doing your job, in life and in the workplace.

By accepting challenges as par for the course, and being more efficient at the steps required to solve problems and implement changes, I am going to appear to be more relaxed than counterparts to those factors. Relaxed isn’t lazy; it isn’t a sign of underperformance or avoidance of work. But the gaze of those around me tell that it’s interpreted as such. Should I look down with shame? Should I wear this assumption proudly? Should I bite back with the subtext of my eyes shaking its head and blaming these people for their own troubles?

Or should I convert to their belief system and stress myself out by talking about stress?

An Experiment

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For 115 days in the very end of 2012 to springtime 2013, I abstained from alcohol. That was nearly four months; while it had hard times I made it through without functional struggle. This week I’ve decided to try four days without coffee – four real days, working days, days when I can’t just excuse myself from everything else in life as a means of cheating.

It is much, much harder than not drinking booze.

Monday was the first day. My brain was lapsing at work. I had to take care of errands and chores in the evening that extended their welcome when I wanted to crawl into bed at 8:30 but couldn’t get there until 9:30. I got in a solid, by my flimsy sleep standards, 9.5 hours that night and I was feeling good to start out on Tuesday.

Getting ready Tuesday morning was a breeze. I left my building from the other side, the one that doesn’t pass my coffee shop, and got to my desk almost ready to work. But my eyelids soon weighed down. I was functioning and able to keep going on the principles of a work ethic not just through my particularly tiring work day, but the normal course of an evening as well. I made dinner, including actual cooked ingredients. I lazed around to watch some TV, went outside to enjoy nice weather with a book in hand, and went on a run. On Tuesday night I went to bed at a reasonable time, about 11, and woke up briefly at 6:00 Wednesday morning and comfortably assured myself I had another hour left in my second favourite place to be.

Wednesday morning I again skipped out on coffee. I got to work. Things were fine. Then somebody came by to chat with me. This is what tires me: a social environment.

One of the reasons to control my coffee intake is to shut me up. When I’m on a caffeine buzz I talk a lot more. That’s necessary in the workplace because I’m surrounded by people, which makes it more likely that there are extroverts about wanting to chit chat so they can hear their own voices. It’s easier for me to tolerate that, and to take part in it to possibly an annoying level, when I’ve had coffee.

Without coffee, I possibly wouldn’t tell people about my problems. That’s both good and bad, because I shouldn’t keep them locked up but also nobody actually cares. I’m putting myself through this to build up problems, hoping they’ll be easier to deconstruct when they’re not hidden under a pile of coffee grounds (which doesn’t even make sense because I don’t usually make coffee at home). Coffee uncovers problems by driving me to endlessly complain about insubstantial shit, but it hides more significant ones – particularly the personal flaws that drive me to endlessly complain about insubstantial shit when given the chemical push.

Anyway, I have one more day of this, then I’ll have proven some sort of point yet to be determined. Perhaps the predominant lesson will be that, while I have no problem with the idea of working with other people, putting actual other people into the mix makes it incredibly difficult when the people aren’t clones of me. (Working with clones of me would be harder in some circumstances, but I digress.) Perhaps it will expose my chemical dependency on caffeine…or the bullshit artificiality of the world that makes drinking coffee necessary for people to follow rules of daily working, eating, and sleeping routines made up by the powers that be. I haven’t gone so crazy without it to turn into a radical anarchist just yet, though. We’ll see. After tomorrow.

Where does the time go? No, really, where?

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Everything is crammed in together in an ever-compressing timeline of a blink of existence, mixing the entrenched bad with the superficial good and vice versa too, I suppose. If there is one human emotion it is ambivalence; if we didn’t have such a sophisticated society and culture and capacity for language and thought in the thousands of years behind us, it would be plain despair. Rituals are what keep us masking our problems, and they’re happening so frequently we can’t fit in legitimate recuperation anymore.

I’m quite admittedly a very self-absorbed person.

Bold Moves with Zero Selection

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I bought a new pair of walking shoes, because the ones I’ve had for the past couple of years are probably a few weeks away from a hole forming in the right sole from my uneven posture and excessive wakling habit. I get quality walking shoes, ones that will last me a couple of years of abuse but don’t have weird shapes in the heel or neon colours. The shoes cost me usually $120-$170 depending on the style and, apparently, where I get them as it turns out I’ve been walking to the farther store to get the same shoes for the higher price. (To be fair, where I’m going has a better selection within my narrow criteria.)

On the colour note, the new pair of shoes I bought are not neon, but they’re still a bold statement: walnut brown with red stitching. My last pair of walking shoes were midnight blue with grey stitching, and impossible to mismatch. Walnut brown is a wonderfully neutral colour, and will go with anything but neon which I don’t wear anyway. Red, though…well, it was once my favourite colour, but now I find it hard to coordinate with most of the spectrum of clothing fashion has thrust upon the world over the past five years.

It’s a gutsy move, getting walking shoes with red stitching. What makes it even gutsier is that there was no other option; the “slate black” colour was out of stock and I highly doubt any shoe designer would make a mass produced shoe with that kind of colour in this era. Yes, I consider things gutsier when there is no choice. I could’ve not bought the shoes at all, which would’ve been easier on the pocketbook, avoided social anxieties of talking to the cashier (which I don’t have, but let’s ignore that), and saved me the time of waiting in line. I was on my lunch break, after all, and spending a good three to four minutes waiting for my turn ended up with me returning six minutes before I had to instead of ten.

The red in the stitching, and in the grooves of the soles, makes a statement to which one cannot be indifferent. One must either be for or against this. If you’re against this, then I will refute your claims with this undeniable point: pants. My pants come in black, brown, dark grey, light grey, and denim blue. Only the light grey could possibly clash, or fail as a buffer between my aqua blouse with a pink camisole. I only wear those pants to work and I don’t need durable walking shoes to get there.

The safe choice was not available, but I decided not to care. Brush that off my shoulders. I’m willing to wear walnut brown with red stitching when I choose to walk for two to three hours instead of spending $2.55 on bus fare. And because I’m subjecting these shoes to that – buying them because I will subject them to that – their autumnal colour scheme must bow to me and take the abuse that wear and tear of water and wind, of dirt and sand and mud and gravel, will impose.

Anyway, that’s my day’s feature accomplishment. What the fuck have YOU done?

Rub-Ins: A New Peaceful Protest

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Even though it doesn’t directly affect me, being in a much saner country that’s had a publicly funded health care system for decades that doesn’t get constantly challenged by wealthy misogynists, I’m still outraged by today’s SCOTUS decision that companies can opt out of providing insurance for birth control for women Just Because. Refusing sex with their partners is a means of political protest that cisgender heterosexual women have used before, and it’s appropriate for these circumstances too. But we need to go beyond that. It’s not enough anymore. We need to assert power over our own bodies by enjoying ourselves sexually in spite of all the ways patriarchal puritanism has tried to suppress it.

I’m going to stop getting into details there, because I’m not so brave to turn it into feminist erotica tweet by tweet on a weekday. We need to throw respectability politics out the window – especially since this will disproportionately affect women who make less money, and so uninsured birth control takes a disproportionate toll on their budget, and who may not have as many options for employment as women who try to enforce “respectability politics” – white cisgender heterosexual high earning women. Employees of Hobby Lobby, which I never fucking heard of before this bullshit (because, fortunately, I don’t think they’ve trekked north of 49), are likely to fall outside of these parameters by one measure or more.

A power that cisgender women who are affected by this decision have is the complexity of sexual stimulation in our genitalia. Some women can stimulate themselves by crossing their legs and moving around in a sitting position. We have a wider range of toys we can use. We can go up the skirt or down the pants without exposing ourselves, if we want to reduce objectification and the potential for this to be a peep show beneficial to heterosexual men. But let’s reinforce our sexual agency. It demonstrates how it’s in everyone’s interest for women to have access to birth control, stigma-free and without causing financial hardship. Beyond the medical conditions it also treats, women take it because they intend to engage sexually with another person who is almost always a man.

This SCOTUS decision doesn’t completely remove women’s sexuality or sexual agency; it enables corporations to impose burdens and limitations on the woman’s choice based on personal opinions of people who run it. It puts the misogyny of rich men ahead of the medical care of working class women. We can assert that our sexuality is our own, not just by denying men from it, but excluding men – showing that it exists whether we include them or not. Do the things that don’t require birth control to serve our best interests, and let the opposition know that their attempts at muzzling women’s sexuality is fruitless – it’s not going to get any more seeds planted.