How many of you have been called “quirky” before? I know I have, and I have been giving it some thought. I’ve always heard quirky directed at me as a label, and I honestly don’t feel like it fits.
The way I like to describe myself when I need to is that I am eccentric. Not quirky. Quirky to me conjures up an image of the characters Zooey Deschanel has played. I like Zooey Deschanel as much as the next human, but in the films and shows I have seen her in, many of the characters are very feminine, very naive, very sweet, and do things in a manner that other characters don’t. They are weird in a socially acceptable way, a way that’s cute.
I’ve been called sweet, naive, innocent, a cinnamon roll, the whole bunch, and I will own all of those. But when people talk to me, they find that I am overexcited about things, very intense, and have interests that some other people don’t, which makes it difficult at times to find my people. I like to wreck traditions whenever I can, which sometimes pisses people off. A lot of the ways I am considered cute are acquired tastes, and as such, I think that some people use quirky as a way to describe me because they can’t think of another way to say it that wouldn’t sound harsh. I use eccentric because it’s the one word that describes most of me, which conjures up images to those who know the term of odd uncles working out maps in attics, or something of the sort. It also reminds me of elliptical orbits in astronomy, but that’s beside the point.
Then there are the people who are like, “you’re not eccentric!” These people usually are my friends who understand my personality and interests well, and they think that I’m insulting myself. Then there are people who openly agree that I’m weird and know that me calling myself eccentric is not an insult. I love both kinds of people and friends.
Labels don’t make you who you are, especially the labels that others place on you. It’s also important to not rely too heavily on the labels you use to describe yourself, as you are subject to change as a human being. You may find yourself growing out of one and into others. Labels, to me, are also summaries, quick ways to tell the world who you are. You are more than a summary.
It’s been in the mid 80s Fahrenheit these last few days here where I live in Alaska. I got my newchest binder yesterday during the hottest day yet, and before yesterday I have never been able to say that I have fought cloth before. Luckily I won the battle.
For those of you who don’t know what a chest binder is, it’s a special undergarment used by people who wish to make their chests appear more flat in a manner that is more safe than, say, Ace bandages, which will end up hurting you in many ways. Ace bandages get tighter with movement, and they can end up messing with your chest and even end up cracking your ribs! Not a good time.
I will likely not wear my new binder for a very long time today just because of how hot it is for me. An extra layer in this weather is very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous. I keep remembering the scene from the first Pirates of the Caribbean where Keira Knightley’s character goes outside in Caribbean summer weather dressed in 29427525 layers and passes out.
Soooo I got sidetracked taking pictures of the random beautiful things that grow in our yard and twisted my ankle coming up the driveway yet again. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, I swear. I got some really cool pictures of the lilac bushes that line the driveway, though.
The flowers are starting to die, but smelling them as I came up the driveway is one of the highlights of this summer. I also made a sweet discovery with the help of my husband and our roommate:
The picture is kind of terrible, but this is a rhubarb plant. The stalks turn red and you can make all sorts of tasty treats out of them. Mixed with sugar, rhubarb tastes like a Smarties candy. It was around midnight when we harvested a stalk and I stewed it in sugar and ate it ALL without giving anyone else the chance to try….whoops. I will definitely make more and possibly give others a chance to eat it before I gobble it all up for myself. It was delicious.
Now I’m sitting in bed with my ankle up while my husband naps next to me. It’s hot, it’s almost two in the afternoon. Many Latin American countries take afternoon naps around this time, so what he’s doing definitely makes sense to me. I might join him when my caffeine wears off. It will do so shortly.
You can feel free to call me a wuss for melting in 80 degree F/20 c weather, but when it comes to cold and anyone from Arizona comes up here in the winter freezing their buns off, I will say “I’m sorry, welcome to Alaska.” I am so glad I live up here. I have always wanted to live someplace as cold as this, and Idaho school was my training ground for that.
I am very, very excited for winter, mainly for two reasons. The sun is more reasonable in the winter in my opinion, and I can wear all of my long sleeved button downs AND my favorite coat without melting. I have a favorite coat, you probably have seen it if you have been following B+BD for awhile.
Here it is again. I love this coat so much. I always wanted a coat like that, and I got one this past winter. I cannot wait to wear it again. We got it from Burlington Coat Factory.
I suppose that if I had to pick a defined topic for today’s post, it would be something along the lines of “things I love” or “things I’m grateful for”. Those are always good things to write about.
I’ve found myself getting caught up in sad things again recently and have been operating from a place of frustration, not of wonder. I’ve been super jaded and frustrated. I have been thinking that the universe isn’t out to help me anymore, it’s been out to punish and to harm. I’ve been losing that sense of hope, if I’m honest, and I feel mentally like I’m back in this past December. I worry that I don’t do enough, that I’m not learning fast enough, that I don’t deserve to be happy, that I’m a failure, that I’m unlovable, that, at the end, there’s no hope for me. My husband got frustrated with me today because he notices things I don’t and made an observation that I was sad because I wasn’t doing anything. Not that I wasn’t being helpful or wasn’t being happy or productive, it was the absence of doing that was hurting me. I was not even being. I was existing at best, and my mind had already set off on some pretty dark paths.
A note: Dear friends, although I was (and kind of still am) very sad, I am safe from harm of any kind.
Both of us have noticed that the absence or presence of doing is the deciding factor as to whether I am being or existing. A lot of the time, being leads to thriving, and most of the time thriving means happiness.
I’m very scared about how sad I have been, and like we have been saying, it’s tied to the act of doing, doing something, anything, regardless of how enjoyable it is. I don’t think that doing is an act of distraction, it’s more an act of self care and at times, catharsis. I am the kind of person that does not do well with excessive free time. Take this with kindness, God and universe, take it and run: I want to be busy, busy to the point (especially with my tutoring) that I am stressed in a good way, that I’m motivated to get out of bed early, that I don’t get to spend a lot of time letting my mind run free into dark places. My husband is the hardest worker I know. I want to work as hard as he does on my various projects.
I define good stress as a stress that motivates and doesn’t shut me down. It’s a sign that I have things that are good in my life that require work to turn out well. It’s not a sign that I have too much on my plate like I once believed, it’s not a sign of burnout, it’s not a sign of “OMG, I’m going crazy.” It’s not that at all. So long as it’s healthy, it’s a sign that I have things that I’m looking forward to that require effort. I’m coming to realize that effort is a wonderful thing. It leads to rich results.
Speaking of all this effort business, I’m going to be hovering around the blog for a bit building some history pages. Here’s the first one. One on Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia will be up shortly!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
I’m back. It was a crazy weekend. My in-laws arrived, my birthday passed, and I wrenched my ankle. Good times.
Yesterday (Tuesday, 18 June 2019) I asked a writing student of mine to write a five paragraph essay about a time she messed up and what she learned from it. I, too wrote a five paragraph essay, but about something slightly different. My essay is about one of the greatest experiments I have ever done and the outcome it yielded. This experiment was the Poem a Day challenge I ran from March 2013 to March 2014. It covered times of great joy, sorrow, anger, and more. It was a year long slice of my life. I decided that I needed to give myself five paragraphs about that. Here they are:
I have written over 500 poems, a good deal of which are flops that will never see the light of day. Nearly 400 were written within the span of a year, during which time I set off to write one poem every day for that year. I learned quite a bit during that time, namely that I really didn’t like rhyming poetry. My rhyming poetry was the worst, and as a result of writing nearly 350 poems that are bad, in my opinion, I learned what I like and dislike when crafting a poem. Some of these dislikes are rhyme, aggressive sentimentality, and writing without sufficient inspiration. I found that I liked “shapeless” poetry like the compositions of modern spoken word poets far better than Emily Dickinson and other Romantic era poets that I had admired greatly before composing hundreds of poems of my own. Perhaps I couldn’t get the rhymes the way I wanted, perhaps it was that I just really didn’t like rhyming poetry for its tendency to be overly sentimental. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work for me. Upon emerging from this year of poetry, I learned three things. First, I knew my voice far better than before, second, I learned the importance of making time for my craft, and third, I learned that I could rise above naysayers who didn’t believe in me.
Before spending a year writing poetry, I was content to imitate the poets I had read in class or otherwise. Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson were two of my early influences, and they were masters of the rhyme. I think that I followed them so closely because I believed that poetry had to rhyme. If it didn’t, it wasn’t poetry. I remember being disgusted with a free-verse poem I wrote in middle school because it didn’t seem like a poem, it seemed like a more schmaltzy story. I barely touched free verse in the years that followed. I went into my poem-a-day challenge with that mindset, and it shaped the outcome. I was very inspired for the first two months or so, and then it began to feel like a chore. I didn’t quit, though, and became inspired again towards the end. These months of chore-like writing felt like they dragged, but they helped me learn what I liked and what I disliked about my poetry. That was the important part – once I started writing, had a considerable body of work, and was writing simply to practice writing, I was able to have a large enough sample size to look through later and learn from it. I ended up largely disowning that body of work, but I was able to learn that I was not meant to be an imitator of Dickinson and Shakespeare – my writing was meant to be something else. I would not have known that without the daily practice of writing.
Another highly important thing I learned about was the importance of making (not just spending) time on my craft. There were days when I wanted nothing to do with poetry; it felt like the world’s biggest chore. I would write some pretty bad poems then, but I wrote. That was important. That is one thing that always trips me up with writing nowadays. I get so caught up in wanting to create good content that I freeze up and don’t create at all. I made time for my craft, I didn’t just spend time working on it. The aspect of making time is highly important – to me, spending time with something is well and good, but when the going gets rough and your task inevitably feels like a chore, making time becomes so important. If I don’t intentionally carve out time to write in any form, it never happens and the days turn into weeks without me ever touching the keyboard or pen. I learned during that year that making time was so important, even if I knew that what I wrote was going to be crap and either be scrapped or gutted later. I think that’s the genius of it all. I can let my writing sit for a year and hate every single word, but in the end, I wrote. I made time for writing. I got better.
The final thing I learned was that people’s opinions of my aspirations or speculations about the outcome of the task at hand don’t affect me unless I let them. I remember people saying at the beginning that I should start small with maybe a poem a day for a week, but the philosophy I developed was similar to that of twelve step programs. One day at a time. I wrote for a year, blowing the same people that had once doubted me out of the water. I blew myself out of the water. I gained so much experience, even fueled at times by others’ criticisms or doubts. I wrote about my life. When something made me sad, I wrote about it. When something positive happened, I wrote about it. I used my setbacks and my joys as fuel for further art. It worked, and I had around 370 poems at the end of it all. I didn’t let what people say about me or my craft bring me down. I used it as fuel.
In the end, the challenge of writing a poem every day was one of the biggest learning experiences of my mid teens. It was a lesson in dedication. It was a lesson in patience. It was a lesson in time management. Above all, it was a lesson in consistency and practice. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I revisited my old poems and reacted to them with new work that was a step above what I had made in the challenge. Without taking the time to find my voice, making time in the day to write, and using setbacks as fuel, I would not be in the place I am today.
In other words, this experiment means a lot to me and I will do it again starting today.
I don’t have many qualms with the world at present or much to say that immediately comes to mind, but I do want to write. I hope you’ll come along for this freewrite!
I remember looking at a coin once that had a building I had never seen on it when I was very small. I asked my grandmother (who was with me at the time) where that building was. This turned out to be the Maryland state quarter, so she explained that this building was in Maryland. I asked her if I’d ever get to see it, and her answer was something to the effect of “maybe”. I tucked that memory away, not quite remembering it, not quite forgetting it for the next 15 and some years. It came to my attention one afternoon when I was walking around Annapolis, Maryland and I looked up at the State House. In that brief moment I realized that I was seeing the building I had wanted to see when I was small that day with the coin.
A few years later, I was fed up with the Texas heat and craving wintertime, so I announced to my family that I was moving to Alaska as soon as I could. I had a town picked out and everything. I was pumped. Those dreams fell by the wayside about a year after that after I really went to school and focused on other dreams, like songwriting, which I would discover a year or two afterwards.
That was over a decade ago. I also realized today that I have been songwriting for a decade. That mark passed last month (May). I wrote my first song to get even remotely popular in May of 2009. This also means I have been playing piano for ten years, as well. I remember that because I wrote that first “good” song a week after sitting down at my aging keyboard and finding I could play what I heard. One of the loops on GarageBand at the time got stuck in my head, so I sounded it out on piano and sang along with the notes. This is the original recording, also the first “good” recording I ever made. I didn’t look back, and I still record everything.
When I was 12, I made a goal to record an album in a studio in much the same way my idol Sara Bareilles did. I ended up achieving that goal by the time I was 14, along with my other goal of writing a book. So for a time, I thought I had accomplished everything I needed to accomplish in life and that therefore it was okay to drift aimlessly. I didn’t want to make any concrete plans because I was afraid they would get thwarted and ultimately abandoned. I was afraid of failure so I failed to start. What I didn’t realize at the time (and didn’t realize until recently) is that a lot of time, goals can take a long time to take shape and that’s okay. Goals can take even longer to be achieved, and that is still okay. My goal at one point was to graduate college in Maryland. After that was a mystery. I had no other plans. It took finding my husband to finally get kicked in the butt hard enough to make some solid goals. These goals have led me away from my original goal of graduating college for now, but they have instead led to some better goals – having a good marriage, running and building my tutoring service, losing weight, and raising our lizard baby.
It takes time for things to fall into place. If I can get anything across today, it’s that. I left Maryland and its goals in favor of bigger things in Alaska, but I didn’t know that upon leaving. All I saw was that moment.
We are given what we need in the times that we need it, and dreams really do come true. Be patient with yourself, others, and the universe.