On Change

Hello, all!

Let’s go back to the beginning.

In my first few posts, I wrote about what I had done that day and not much else. I don’t mourn those days. I’ve changed a lot, I can fully admit that. I have changed more in the past eight, nearly nine months than I did in the twenty-some-odd years before that. I’ve been terrified that I haven’t been able to make any lasting change in my life ever, but this is evidence that I can…and have done so.

I am very much a creature of habit. People call me wise, but I don’t see myself that way. I’ve just fallen into the same holes so many times that I don’t know how to avoid them. No, that wasn’t a typo. I do fall into the same figurative holes, even if I have fallen into them 27296597655 times before, I know how to avoid it, and I know how to fix the frickin’ problem. It really upsets me and it takes something or someone bashing me over the head with a thought-brick made from them getting annoyed with me or reacting negatively for me to be even willing to change.

Now that I am changing, I am beating myself over the head with the thought of “you’re not changing fast enough.” I’m not very ambitious most of the time and I don’t want to keep changing once I’ve made a change. Instead, I am content to sit there and idle for a bit until another thought-brick comes at me and makes me move. That’s a lot of beating myself up. It’s not that I’m suicidal or even depressed. It’s that I don’t like change and I hate the feeling of having to continually remember new things to work on when I have a lot of trouble remembering what I originally committed to do in the first place. I hate how I write on things here and I come up with all these great solutions to my problems and then I hop offline and don’t do a damn thing about the same problems. I am starting to really annoy myself with this. It’s either this “I want to rest” or “I’m not moving fast enough and I’m afraid”. I know that making tiny changes helps and that those tiny choices will ultimately affect the bigger choices, but I worry that tiny changes aren’t what is needed and that bigger changes needed now.

I’ve always heard that perfection is the enemy of the good, but I am not changing fast enough and I know that. I don’t like to change because I feel like the changes aren’t sustainable, too, and I don’t want to change a behavior only to have it revert back to its original state and have everyone around me be disappointed. I don’t believe I can change, so I just…don’t. The one thing that works is what I mentioned before – little changes that lead to bigger ones. If I can accomplish little things, I will be increasingly comfortable with bigger and bigger things. I’ve probably heard someone tell me that before, too. Many of the ideas I cook up when I write or talk to people I have already heard from others and forgotten. I have a terrible memory for conversations and get overwhelmed by the information quickly. I should really take notes. The problem I have with that is that I had a very, very good memory for everything in high school and before and I take it as a serious blow to my pride that I’d be so forgetful that I’d have to take notes on conversations. I feel dumb when I forget things. I don’t like to feel dumb or powerless. But as a result of my pride, I forget important things that should be remembered.

It’s things like the forgetfulness that really upset me. I’m so tied up in the achievements of the past that I don’t pay attention to what I need now. This has gotten to be more than a blow to my pride that should be dealt with in the same way I always have dealt with this problem. This really is a need that, when resolved, will help in many cases. What I need now is a system to remember important conversations.

I’ve been thinking as I’ve been writing this post about ways I can remember what is important. It needs to be in a place where things can be easily added and seen as a group, not just selected individually. I have been making notes at the bottom of my to-do lists for the day at hand, and that’s useful, but I believe that this can be far more streamlined. I’m thinking an Evernote notebook or a physical notebook. I’m leaning towards Evernote.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Love,

Mago

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A History Lesson: Prehistoric Times

Hello, all!

A student of mine has requested visual presentations as we go through the textbook we’re working with. The textbook in question is Traditions and Encounters, which was the textbook that I used when I was younger to study for the AP World History exam. Because of the fact that we’re using this textbook as a guide, I will be quoting from it as a source. Since it’s meant to be visual, I will also be including pictures, GIFs, and videos. Let’s go! I’ll live up to the Byzantines portion of this blog’s name.

Lucy: First and Best Known Hominid

Ethiopia location on the World Map
Ethiopia on a map of the world, ontheworldmap.com

Lucy, one of the oldest known hominids, was discovered in an archaeological site in Ethiopia in East Africa in 1974. This discovery was extremely important because, once Lucy’s and other skeletons were examined, it was determined that our earliest ancestors, even as long ago as Lucy’s lifetime, walked upright with two feet. This is part of what set early hominids (peoples that are precursors to modern humans) apart from apes, who used all four of their limbs to walk. Walking on two feet is super important to the progression of a species because that skill enables the arms to do other things besides walking. She was under four feet tall and her brain was about the size of a grapefruit. Her brain wasn’t very developed, but she walked on two feet. That was what made her and her companions different from the surrounding animals, and that would determine how the rest of history would develop.

Some Background

Before we get too deep into our study of prehistory, we need to remember two things. First, the word prehistory simply means the period of time before writing existed. History is everything after that. Second, humans didn’t develop in a world apart from everything else. Instead, they made use of what they already had, like fire and tools, better than any

Fire.

other species. This use of resources shaped the Earth from the beginning, which would lead to things like agriculture and the establishment of societies, but that’s largely a topic for later. From the beginning, however, they laid the foundation for our societal structures we have today.

How did Homo sapiens come about?

That’s a question that is answered best by describing a chain of evolution. The first in this chain was Australopithecus, the “southern ape”. Australopithecus is not an ape, though, it is a hominid, a step on the way to the modern human species. They appeared in great numbers in East Africa, where archaeological sites like the one mentioned at the beginning contained many remains of these hominids. These are some of the earliest examples we have of hominid life.

These peoples were organized, made tools, moved in search of prey, and were able to use crude communication skills. They had opposable thumbs, which allowed them to better craft and use the tools they made.

Image result for homo erectus
Homo erectus, the Smithsonian Institution

After Australopithecus began to die out, the next step on the road to modern humanity arrived – Homo erectus. These hominids came into being approximately one million years ago and had bigger brains, made more sophisticated tools that expanded on the choppers and scrapers of Australopithecus – they made hand axes and cleavers. These helped them prepare food and also defend against predators. Also, if Australopithecus possibly how to control fire, Homo erectus most definitely knew how to do so. They also were intelligent and were able to use language, which helped them attack predators in an organized manner. Like their ancestors, they resided in camps and were peoples of community. These skills allowed them to scatter and spread, with groups reaching far corners of their ever expanding world.

Finally, about 250,000 years ago, a peculiar group began to emerge. These peoples had brains almost as large as ours, were highly intelligent, and their brains were well structured. Relative to their animal neighbors, they were relatively scrawny and weak. They couldn’t defend themselves with claws, talons, or teeth. Instead, they relied on their cleverness for survival – and won. These peoples were early Homo sapiens. Before and during this time, several ice ages created land bridges that provided free passage across now sea-covered areas. The Bering Strait that connects modern day Russia with Alaska was once one such land bridge. These early Homo sapiens crossed over these bridges and went exploring. Some stayed up north, crafting warm clothes and shelters from the cold, others ventured south – as far south as the tip of South America. Other early Homo sapiens found their way to what is now southern China, built boats, and pushed out into the Pacific, eventually settling and creating societies on the islands there. They reached Australia at least 60,000 years ago.

Paleolithic Society

Tools used by early Homo sapiens.

If there was one thing that Homo sapiens was excellent at, it was building tools. Hunting with tools eventually threatened other large species and drove some into extinction. Peoples in the Old Stone Age, or Paleolithic era, were quite skilled at hunting and didn’t just wander around searching for food. They knew the migration and growing cycles of the food they went after, and it was a calculated effort. They also got very talented at hunting big game successfully – so successfully that some of their prey, like the woolly mammoth, completely extinct. They had special techniques for killing these creatures, like causing stampedes.

A Neanderthal grave.

Contrary to what some might believe, however, they didn’t just spend all of their time hunting and gathering. They created art and had complex rituals. The Neanderthals, for example, would bury their dead with purposely arranged wildflowers and animal bones. Nobody knows exactly why the Neanderthals did this, but it provides evidence of self- and environmental awareness. They also had the capacity to feel and care for others, as evidenced by the burial sites for their kind.

The Cro-Magnon peoples displaced the Neanderthals and some mixed. The Cro-Magnons were very artistic peoples and they were fashionable and aesthetically driven. They created art deep in caves like Lascaux in France. This is all evidence of deep thought and progression.

The Transition to Agriculture

We have touched on Homo sapiens‘ hunting habits. As they hunted and developed new techniques for doing so, their food sources began to run out. With that encouragement nipping at their heels, the first crops were successfully and sustainably cultivated around 8,000 BCE.

Hunting and gathering actually takes less work than farming, and very few people would be willing to even attempt to farm were there not the possibility of a more stable civilization motivating them. Along with this farming, people stopped moving around in search for food and instead tended to it themselves in settlements like Jericho in the modern day Middle East and Catal Huyuk in Turkey. Not everyone farmed, either. In Catal Huyuk, there is evidence that people were artisans, creating pots and other things. Agriculture also made the human population stable enough that they were able to band together in larger numbers and experience a population boom. As the cities grew more complex, so did their capacity to create. We’ll see what happens next!

Comfort

Hello, all!

It’s almost 2 AM and I’m sitting in my favorite writing spot – a couch in the basement of my house. It’s the perfect place to write for me. I like to have my computer at arm level while I sit and write, and this couch is perfect in that regard. I’m glad we kept this couch and I feel bad for doubting it at first. I was not a fan of it for a long time – I used to sit on it while I tutored. It hurt my legs after sitting on it for awhile, and most of my tutoring sessions ran for an hour or longer. Ouch.

But then I found that writing here is the best. I have been writing here since the start of B+BD at the beginning of this year, but my exact favorite writing location has changed as the months have passed. I used to write on the floor covered in blankets. I used to tutor there, too, but I thought after a time that that was super unprofessional. Then came the couch, which became my new work spot. It’s cold as all get out down here, especially in the wintertime, but blankets and a hoodie make it doable.

The couch made its way down here after we got this massive sofa brand new, which displaced this little thing and led to it being moved down to where it is now in the basement. So here I am, writing on it at 2 AM. Cinematic by Owl City is in my ears. I’m on a huge Owl City kick, and this music really helps me gather my thoughts. It also helps that I have heard most of his songs dozens of times. They fade into the background, making it easy to tune the world out and write. It’s very comfortable. It’s important to me that I have this writing spot. It feels weird to write elsewhere.

I have approached a lot of difficult topics since starting this blog, and having a comfortable spot where I can explore these bigger ideas is very special to me. I sometimes write and post from my phone, but that doesn’t feel as special as writing on my laptop. I think I take it more seriously when I write here. It requires me to consciously set aside an hour or so per post instead of writing whenever I can squeeze in a minute or two. The posts seem to be of a better quality, as well.

My friend here always talks about having a calm home base. I find that to be true, especially in my writing and creative areas. I have been hurting bad these past few days, so I have been neglecting my kitchen. I call it “my kitchen” because I have been trying to clean and maintain it every day and I give people looks if they mess it up. It’s become my job of sorts, and I’m starting to take a lot of pride in it. It makes me anxious and sad to see it dirty. If I feel better today, I’m going to clean it well. I hate that everything has been almost put on hold while I’ve been down for the count. I want it all to go away. I have lessons today, so I’m going to take a few ibuprofen and tough today out for my students. My students are like family to me and I will do my best to care for them.

Speaking of doing my best, I’m on day 5 of my poem a day challenge and I haven’t skipped a day. This was today’s:

you have to admit

you’re all crashing down

craving the salt of lover’s tears

maybe i’ve been listening to too

much radiohead 

maybe i am unhinged 

don’t touch me

don’t hurt me 

don’t hurt me with your songs

that i loved so long ago

loved so recently 

i want to write about the future 

this is how i argue with myself 

this is how i fight

this is how i slam words together 

getting nowhere but farther away

i like singing to empty rooms

with vaulted ceilings 

so that maybe the ghosts these

rooms were built on can hear the

echo of sounds crashing against 

the curves

i would do a concert this way if i 

knew nobody was listening 

i have to admit that

i don’t want to forget

even if it means being blind to my

future 

screaming for dear life as my

mental echo chamber empties

i have to get it all out

perhaps i have to scream to break 

the silence until it vaporizes

the future is waiting outside the

door

knocking 

screaming as loud as i

am – let me in

let me in 

let me hold you

all will be well if you

untether yourself and dive in

That’s all, folks!

Love,

Mago

On Pain

Hello, all!

I’m sorry I haven’t been super present on the blog lately. I’ve been in a good deal of pain, first with my wrenched ankle and now with cramps.

These aren’t normal cramps. I’ve been down for the count for several days. We went to the doc today and they gave me extra strength Tylenol and some Aleve. They didn’t do anything. I’m scared of this and where it’s going, and we sat in the room for two hours for practically nothing but them telling me to see how it goes.

I am scared to see where this goes. I have been feeling really sad lately and I want it all to stop. I was told somewhere that birth control will stop my periods, not make things worse. I am tired of this emotional rollercoaster, I’m tired of the pain. I am tired of feeling like disappearing for at least a week every month.

I would far rather keep the painful periods than deal with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with all of this crap. I have had PMS to the degree that it’s a miracle I still have friends. My periods died with the Depo Provera shot, but that messed me up in ways that made it not worth another go. I was very upset that nobody told me what the shot would do and it’s made it hard to trust an OBGYN again. I still am wary of them. Maybe that’s my fault.

Bottom line – I am tired of this birth control journey. I want it all to end, to have normal emotional patterns not affected by hormones, and to not be in physical pain for around a week. I don’t know what to do and I am frustrated.

As this comes and hopefully goes, I have been learning an important lesson. I realize that I have been dwelling too much in the past and that is hurting my hope for the future, especially in my writing. I write about past events in the hope of sorting through them, but really I’m allowing them free space in my brain that they shouldn’t be able to inhabit.

I think I’ll relieve a lot of self inflicted pain if I focus less on the past. I hope y’all have a wonderful day. Until next post –

Mago

An Impossible Wish

Hello, all!

The pain hasn’t really let up today, so this post might be a bit short.

I am really proud of how I looked today.

Today’s look.

I know most people would find the green lipstick odd, and I’ll give that to them. Some people haven’t ever seen a matte green lipstick before. I hadn’t ever seen one in person, either, until I walked into an Ulta store in Plano, TX. I made myself a promise that I would not make a purchase in that Ulta unless it was a tube of matte forest green lipstick. I called this an impossible wish. After much hunting, the workers there tracked down the same lipstick I wore today. It’s a shade from Too Faced called Wicked. The only problem I had with it was that it cost $20 USD, but I ultimately remembered my promise to myself and walked out with it in hand. It’s probably the weirdest shade in my collection and I only really break it out on special occasions. It was what I needed today to look like myself, which I desperately needed.

I believe I wrote before about how my desired look changes depending on how I’m feeling. It has recently included dark lipstick, long sleeved button downs, and business pants or skirts. It shifts a bit, but it seems to largely stay focused on this sort of theme. I have felt so confident in these outfits, and that shows in the large amount of selfies I’ve been taking.

My outfit two days ago.

Selfies help me when I feel sad. Looking nice is an important mood booster for me – if I look nice, odds are I feel better about myself than normal. It’s one of the things I like to do when I feel sad – take a shower and put on some nice clothes, take a few pictures of myself. It works wonders.

I have recently realized that not everyone will like the way I look. That shouldn’t stop me from dressing in ways that make me comfortable with myself. The green lipstick, as I stated before, turns a lot of people off. I’m not meant to be liked by everyone who ever sees me. I am me, and I am not meant to be liked or understood by everyone. Nobody is made for everyone, and thinking one is that way only leads to disappointment. Some people can’t take me seriously with black lipstick on, and they have every right to do so. I will never be able to please everyone. That, to me, is an important step I’ve made in learning who I am.

Thank you for reading!

Mago

Hello, friends!

I recently had a dream where my gender and how it was seen super mattered to me. I didn’t look like what I looked like in my head, but I was loud and proud about who I was. I was open. I was out there, people knew who and what I was.

Recently, though, it hasn’t mattered a ton. It’s not that I see myself a certain way or that way has changed. It just hasn’t mattered a whole bunch. This is part of the reason I go with the agender label. I don’t often perceive what I am until it starts poking me, often when someone calls me “girl” or some variant of that. A lot of the time I’m simply content with referring to myself in ways that make me feel comfortable. I understand that some people see me a certain way, and it’s difficult to look a way that matches my identity, so I don’t mind when people don’t catch on. There are people I can talk about it to, and there are people with whom I let it be.

With Pride and people being loud, proud, and open, I’m not quite sure if I fit in. I feel like a coward for not being open about it, but at the same time, I understand that some of the people I know, especially on social media, would likely actually be afraid and start worrying about my identity and myself. So I’m keeping it limited  to here for now.

It’s been an interesting time for me lately as I seem to get better, then get worse, then get better. I was exercising every day for a bit, and that felt GREAT. Then I wrenched my ankle over the weekend and that put a damper on my exercise plans. My mood started to plummet, and even though I was getting stuff done and trying to function, I was anxious as hell. Something was stressing me out and I’m not sure what it was, even now. But I was actively trying to get better – I was social, I was doing my work, I was making things. I think a factor in this was the fact that I couldn’t get out and exercise. Being in bed resting my ankle stressed me out to the point where my anxiety actually spiked and I felt like I had downed 6 shots of espresso all at once. Not fun.

Things have calmed down now. I am halfway swim tired (I swam laps today) and I made some awesome music loops to start songs with. This week has been a lesson in patience, if nothing else. It really goes to show how much of an impatient human I am. I tend to want everything to be better immediately instead of letting things heal. My body is rebelling against me yet again, as well – cramps are hellish and I want them gone more than anything else. Here I go being impatient again.

I am also baffled by the practice of mindfulness. It’s supposed to help calm people down, but all it does for me is make sure I see everything. I’m probably doing it wrong. I start by focusing on my breathing and looking at stuff around me to ground me firmly, but somehow it always turns into a session of hyper vigilance that makes me more anxious. A ton of people preach the value of it, but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I want distraction from my thoughts during that time, I think. I’m overwhelmed enough, being aware is more painful than blocking it all out. A lot of times there’s a sensory overload element to it and I already feel like I can see everything and it hurts. Maybe that’s why I forget things so easily. I could be blocking everything out so I don’t get overloaded. Or my head is elsewhere. Both are true at times.

I am complaining too much. I realize this and will take my leave for the day before I complain more.

Love, Mago

What People Might Think

Hello, friends!

Yesterday I wrote about my Poem a Day challenge and how I’m starting that again. Something I briefly touched on during that time is the importance of writing just to write, regardless of how awful it can possibly be. I had forgotten about that before I started working on that post. I’m glad I remembered it.

Part of this paralysis goes for blogging, as well – I have read so many articles that say that you have to write good posts 100% of the time or nobody will care about what you have to say, which is a ton of pressure for someone like me. I put a lot – too much – stock into what others think of me, and it’s really damaging at times because I sometimes sacrifice my own opinions and beliefs in favor of maintaining my reputation and not rocking the boat. I know I ask my husband and friends for help with making most of my decisions. This is frustrating for them because I’m 22, for crying out loud. My problem is that I’m afraid I’ll piss someone off if I don’t ask for help because I might do something they disapprove of, so it’s better to get clearance before I do something people might think is stupid.

The key phrase here is “people might think”. I am afraid of what people might think of me or my actions. I used to not be so afraid of this, but it has gotten worse over the years. I am afraid of messing up, so I don’t try to do things I don’t know how to automatically do. I fear the thoughts of others more than just about anything else on this Earth, and it’s taken me this long to figure it out. For someone who preaches the value of saying “screw the world, I’m gonna be me” a lot, I sure don’t take that to heart. I am afraid of people being angry or upset with me to the point where when somebody even remotely raises their voice at me, I start shutting down and it takes a great deal of effort to remain in the moment. It sometimes gets to the point where I just hide because I’m so afraid of annoying people. It’s not necessary, I know that. I know that those around me care even though I am annoying sometimes. I fear being seen as annoying almost as much as I fear disapproval or failure. These fears make me shut down more often than I care to admit.

Again, however, we can distill everything down to that one key phrase – what people might think – only let’s take it a step further. I often don’t realize that people don’t always react to things the way I fear or expect they will. Most of the time, my fears come from me blowing things way out of proportion. People are often so absorbed in their own lives and are in their own heads that they don’t even notice the thing I was afraid they would see. An example of this is wearing my favorite lipstick, a black matte. This lipstick makes me feel like myself more than any of my other lipsticks except for maybe my dark green colored one.  It matches how I feel at the moment. Some people have asked if I’m becoming a goth, others have said that they can’t take me seriously. Others love it. I love it. That’s what matters. Most people surely look at me and say to themselves, “oh, that human is wearing black lipstick” and then move on with their day. It fits me and is nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. The same thing goes for when I make a mistake in public and I start to dwell on it. I have to tell myself that these people don’t know me and I will likely never see them again. This helps me laugh the incident off and feel better.

In the end, it’s important to realize that people make mistakes and that nobody is perfect. Like writing low-quality things or things that don’t really fit your niche, it’s important to get that experience and practice you wouldn’t get otherwise. Spending time in your craft is so important, even if you suck at first. You are loved, remember that.

Best,

Mago

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