In God’s House

The challenge is to resist circumstances. Any idiot can be happy in a happy place, but moral courage is required to be happy in a hellhole.

—Joyce Carol Oates

The thing about anxieties is that they don’t go away so much as migrate to other areas. You can never really stamp them out, and even if what you’re obsessing over is, on its face, ridiculous, it’s hard to just forget about it and move on no matter how many times you’ve been through this before. So forgive me if I’m even more self-pitying than normal here, but I’ve been in kind of a reflective mood lately. The holidays are right around the corner, and I’m starting to understand why they’re so stressful for so many people. I mean, the whole point is that they’re fun and festive, right? But it doesn’t seem to go that way for most people. I’m not buying anyone gifts this year. I found a second job (it’s seasonal, but still), which will hopefully enable me to make ends meet for the time being, but beyond that, I’m out. Right now, I have to look out for myself and no one else. It’s just where I’m at.

The crazy thing, of course, is that now I have to fight the urge to indulge in all those things that I’ve been holding back on lately. Even with my income nearly doubling, my personal budget sheet is going to be only slightly in the black. I’m not sure how long it’s going to be before I can move back to NYC. I’m hoping to do it by next fall, but at the rate things are going, who knows? This is one of those cases where I wish I had one of my optimistic (or is it fatalistic?) friends around. You know, one of those people who says, “Oh don’t worry, if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” I hate that attitude, but it can be rather comforting. I think the universe is a pretty cold, indifferent place, but it’s not completely without order. I also have to figure out what’s going on with my healthcare and other such adult things. I was not happy as a child, so all things considered, that’s kind of a step forward. Even so.

prayer in schoolMy problem isn’t that I’ve never been able to accept responsibility; it’s that I’ve never been very good at kicking back. It’s part of the reason that I spend most of my time off sitting in my room dicking around on my computer: after a long, hard day of doing shit, that’s usually all I have the energy to do. And I’m still not working nine-to-five, which is good, as I don’t want that kind of schedule and likely never will. I think part of my fascination with religion comes with my inability to function in the gritty, messy reality that I live in. I like to think of myself as pragmatic, but since I’m an obsessive perfectionist, I’m probably more idealistic than I care to admit. Some of my favorite co-workers back at the coffee shop weren’t even particularly good at their jobs; they were just fun people to be around. I don’t know how much fun I am to be around, but I try not to let every tiny slip-up at work get to me the way I used to. My father said once that 90% of success is showing up. It’s one of the few valuable things he taught me.

In case it’s not obvious, I’m starting to wind down. I’ll keep writing these posts for a little while yet. I think I am finding better ways to communicate with people than blogging. This thing still doesn’t get many hits, but as I’ve said many times, I don’t even know who the fuck reads blogs anymore. These days, it’s all Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, or what have you. Nobody gives a shit about WordPress. In a way, it’s liberating to know that you have a small but devoted group of followers. It means that you don’t have to work as hard to keep everyone happy. I finished 30 Rock not too long ago. Maybe the reason I like that show so much is that it’s unafraid to include jokes that are so specific and obscure as to appeal to only a tiny percentage of the population. Jenna had a line at one point that was like, “You’ll have to move to the Bay Area. Have fun always carrying a light sweater everywhere.” I know millions of people live there, but still.

I have found that people tend to use their free time more efficiently when they have less of it. This is not at all surprising. I’m working full-time now, so I don’t have too many days to just sit around doing whatever. It’s only natural that I might miss that. Then again, part of my problem in the first place was that I had all this time to do nothing and no idea how to fill it. I loved computer games as a child, but even I could play them only for a few hours every day before thinking I should find something else to do. I actually did spend a lot of time with my friends in those days, it’s just that everyone seemed to think that because I had no obligations, I had nothing to worry about. It doesn’t work that way. My pursuits at the moment are still fundamentally selfish. I’m not looking for a job that will make other people happier, just one that will pay the bills and not bore me to tears. If it benefits other, great. But my motives are not altruistic by any means.

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These Days

They say that as you get older, you don’t change so much as distill. A lot of the people I knew in high school just bore me these days. I saw Y Tu Mama Tambien when I was fourteen and didn’t get much out of it. The explicit sex wasn’t a problem (for me, it was kind of a turn-on to see Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal going at it), but I just couldn’t feel engaged by the main characters. They just seemed like a pair of sex-obsessed dirtbags. Of course, that’s what most teenagers are, but it took me a while to appreciate that. Even though I was a teenager myself at the time, I somehow couldn’t identify with it. That did change over time, however. Looking back, I think it’s a fine film. It’s weird to think that you could drift apart from your best friend until you realize that you don’t have all that much in common anymore, but it’s happened to me at least a few times so far. And I don’t even have that many friends.

I think the reason I find myself drifting away from some of these people is that I see so many of them “settling down”. I put that in quotes because to some people, that seems to mean finding somebody they want to marry, as if all you have to do is find somebody you want to spend the rest of your life with and then you can spend it with them. But once you’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you have to actually spend the rest of your life with them. Deciding that you want to spend the rest of your life with them is only the first step. I always get bugged when I hear people talk about their relationship as something that is going to last the ages, because so far, it’s lasted a couple of fights, maybe a handful of personal and professional setbacks, and that’s it. I’ve said it before, but my future husband had better be tough as nails. It’s not even so much about whether he’ll be able to handle me as whether or not we’ll be able to spend all that time together and not get bored. Seriously, let’s take it one step at a time.

I hate the expression “follow your bliss”. Joseph Campbell originated it, I think, and he’s the one who wrote about the hero’s journey and how certain storytelling tropes can be found in every culture and shit. I know what he means; I just hate the sound of it. It seems almost fatalistic, and I am not a fatalist. There is no “meant to be”, there is only what is and what isn’t. This might seem at odds with my own spiritual beliefs, which are more pantheistic than atheistic, but I don’t think it is. If there is a God, He doesn’t have a plan for you. It’s not a simple as just living the life that was preordained. Instead, you just have to live the best life you can, and maybe if you’re lucky, the Flying Spaghetti Monster will meet you halfway on occasion.

Let’s talk, for a second, about In-N-Out Burger. Actually, let’s talk about Chick Fil-A. A few years ago, CEO Dan Cathy stirred up controversy when he said that he did not support gay marriage. You might reasonably ask what gay marriage has to do with fast food, but that’s exactly the point: Who the fuck asked him what his views on gay marriage were? Obviously, you can continue to eat there even if you don’t share his views, but that leads us to my next point: I really like In-N-Out. It’s the only fast food chain that I patronize on anything more than a once-in-a-blue-moon basis (I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate at McDonald’s or Burger King), but something tells me I don’t share the CEO’s views. The Texas-based family that founded it is, I believe fundamentalist Christian, and if you look on the bottom of their drink cups, you will notice the words “John 3:16” printed on there. But that’s irrelevant. None of the chief executives have, to my knowledge, issued any public statements on gay marriage. They also pay their employees a good starting wage. So even though I brought this up, I think I’ll just call it off. Because nothing beats a double-double animal style.

When my father had cancer, he would take me along to support groups because I was a toddler and there was nowhere else he could leave me. He would tell everybody there that I was “shy”. I don’t think I am. Socially awkward, maybe even withdrawn, but not shy. In the right setting, I can be the life of the party. Ask anybody who’s ever gotten a real conversation out of me. But not when surrounded by people with metal voices and/or missing limbs and shit (my father used to be a smoker). He said that what he got out of this was a sense of perspective: surrounding himself with people who were even more fucked up than he was made him feel better about his own situation. I feel like that’s why I’m on OKCupid. Nobody ever gets everything they want, but I have a nasty feeling that I’m not going to get to be with one of the jocks that I spent all of high school (and most of college and, yes, probably the years after that) lusting after. I suppose I can live with that, but it’s nice to know that there are some folks who are interested in me whose interest I don’t return. Hey, I’m allowed to have standards, too. I just have to figure out what’s reasonable.

Manumission

The first time I read Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden”, I thought it was a joke. Surely nobody could be this racist? But it turns out he was. There was no irony in Kipling’s writing: he believed that the white race was superior, and that it was their duty to civilize the savaged. There are those who believe it is their duty to willingly submit to their overlords, but strangely, I don’t think any of the brown people Kipling was domesticating ever wrote a poem from that perspective. (Kipling would argue that that’s because they aren’t literate or civilized enough to realize how uncivilized they are. Bigotry is self-rationalizing that way.)

robin hoodI seem to be experiencing a resurgent interest in classic adventure stories. Towards the end of middle school, I read the first handful of stories in A Thousand and One Nights. They were pretty good, but kind of predictable and all cut from the same cloth. In one incident, some dude ends up staying in a place for 99 nights that has 99 rooms. He is told not to open the door to the last room, but since he stays in one room each night and finds each room to be even more beautiful than the last, he just can’t help himself. I can’t remember exactly what happens when he opens the door to the last room, but it was pretty bad. Who could have seen that coming?

(If I had to pick a favorite swashbuckling movie, I’d go with The Adventures of Robin Hood, which has everything: romance, gallantry, hair-breadth escapes, all that good stuff. And at the center of all of that was Errol Flynn. Apparently, he was a party animal in real life, but he was perfect for that role.)

Why am I telling you all this? I don’t know. I guess I just had a lot of thoughts to unload. I’m trying to find things that will occupy my mind that don’t involve staring at a screen, but that takes time. I’m kind of glad that I don’t own a smartphone, because even though I don’t text very much, I would probably spend an inordinate amount of time browsing the web while I should be doing other things. Actually, I do that already, but a smartphone would just make it that much easier. I don’t hate the internet; I just don’t see why so much of it is necessary. In a way, that’s why I’m so suspicious of new technology. I can see why Google Glass is cool, but why the fuck does anybody need it? If there ever were a technology that could bring out my inner grumpy old man, that was it. What’s next, a cybernetic implant that allows you to stream Netflix and Spotify while texting and driving all at the same time?

Conversely, I don’t think there’s anything less “real” about the internet. I hate it when people tell me that I shouldn’t get into arguments on the internet, as if that’s somehow better than arguing in real life. 99% of the time, that’s just a cowardly way of saying, “You’re kicking my ass, so I’ll pretend you’re the one who just doesn’t get it and scamper away with my tail between my legs.” Ah, it’s good to see that my inner misanthrope is alive and well.

I don’t know if I’ve ever completed a crossword puzzle. Even the really easy ones in my school paper or the Monday New York Times ones, I could never seem to fill in all the way. Maybe it’s because I’m such a perfectionist that I have to make everything fit, but it’s hard for me to let go of something like that. You ever have only one space left in a word, but you cycle through all the letters in the alphabet and still can’t find one that fits? That happens to me a lot. People tell me I overthink things, which makes this the perfect medium in which to express myself. Sooner or later, common sense kicks in and I regain the ability to see the forest for the trees. When I took physics in high school, I noticed myself getting stuck on one-step problems even as I breezed through more complicated ones. Sometimes, the answer is so simple that I’m amazed no one else can see it. And sometimes, you bang your head against your desk for hours and still can’t see what’s obvious to everyone else. I need to learn to be more patient.

I’ve been told on one or two occasions that I was exhibiting sociopathic tendencies. There aren’t too many things that I’m sure of, but one of them is that I’m not a sociopath. There are some people who just take and take. The only reason they ever take an interest in somebody else is so that they can be like them. I’ve run into people like that, people who twist your words so that even when you say something that they agree with, they have to repeat it back to you like they thought of it first. That’s not sociopathy, but it is insecurity, and if I can’t defeat that, I can at least fight it.

This was one of my more rambling entries, to be sure. So I’m not even going to try to tie it all together. Instead, I’ll leave you with the words of the great Dr. House, who said that everything happens for a reason, we just might not know it at the time. He didn’t mean that in the fatalistic sense, but rather the purely logical cause-and-effect sense. I maintain that everyone has the power to find the answers they’re looking for. But even if you don’t know where you’re going, it kind of helps to know why you want to get there.

Like You Do

The only valuable thing I’ve learned from this ninny is that gay men can be boring dudebros just as easily as straight men.

I’m having trouble adjusting my living habits to my work schedule. I’m starting to work mornings, which is good, as it means that my skill level is increasing and will hopefully result in a greater share of tips and more hours in the long run. Problem is, I still have this problem where I can’t seem to get to sleep before midnight no matter how tired I am. It’s my head. Specifically, it’s the voices that live up there. They’re a pretty noisy bunch, as I have said on many prior occasions. I’m not a person who can just make snap judgments and roll with what happens. I need time to plan. (That way, I’m ready to curl up into a ball and cry when the Flying Spaghetti Monster inevitably thwarts my plans.) But seriously, I just don’t thrive when new shit is getting thrown at me every minute. I need to be able to go to my room and lock the door (which I always do even though nobody ever barges in) and spend six hours staring at my computer or lying under my desk in order to figure out where to go from here. My plans tend to function better in the long term than the short term. I just don’t work well when people are demanding to know what I’m doing.

My boss pulled me aside to let me know that my some of my coworkers don’t like me very much. He didn’t phrase it that way; he just said I seem kind of closed off and might want to consider being a bit friendlier with the people I work with. Boy, do I not find that surprising. Friendly is not my default setting, never has been, never will be. You should meet my father, who can smile and chat with most people he meets. If his father were still around, you could meet him, a man who could take 45 minutes just to go down the street and buy milk. My grandfather could strike up a conversation with anyone. Some people just think that way. “Oh look, a person! I should totally be friends with them!” they evidently say to themselves. It is my job, I believe, to educate them on the wonders of misanthropy.

Before somebody mentions it, this is one of those posts where I don’t really have an overarching theme. On some days, I do, but today, I have only a shitload of random thoughts. If you want to understand just how deliriously sex-negative some elements of our culture are, watch the clip below. It’s a compilation of scenes from the short-lived TV series, The Secret Life of the American Teenager. There is a line in this clip so mind-numbingly ridiculous that to even hint at it would spoil the fun. And here’s the kicker: IT’S ALL FROM THE SAME EPISODE. I…I just don’t know what to say to something like that. This show was produced by the same woman responsible for 7th Heaven, a godawful series in which an insultingly perfect white Christian family learns thuddingly obvious (and extremely moralistic) life lessons. Totally different from this show, of course.

Actually, I think I do have a theme going here. Mainly, I’m just frustrated with that feeling of being over the hump. I’ve never had a job quite like this one before. I’ve had retail jobs and food service jobs, but never one this…intense. My canvassing job was more stressful, but since I wasn’t in it for the money, I feel like it doesn’t count. My psychotic ex-roommate was fired from two jobs in the course of one week. At one, he lasted only an hour. My goal, when starting at the coffee shop, was to last more than an hour. I succeeded, and even if I make a fool of myself by shouting at a customer or fighting with a coworker or doing something else that I very well might do if pushed, the worst thing they can do is fire me. That’s fine. I was never married to this thing to begin with.

When I moved to Queens last August, I was thinking of starting over. I had finished my education and was trying to get started professionally. But then shit happened and now I’m here. I don’t subscribe to that “everything happens for a reason” fatalism. As far as I’m concerned, I still think the ideal turn of events would have been for me never to have moved in with that psychopath in the first place. But the fact remains that shit had been on a downhill slide for a while leading up to that. My social life was uneventful, my job search was getting more and more desperate, blog traffic was in the toilet, and somewhere along the line, my computer broke down. Traffic seems to be picking up. That’s nice. But this blog isn’t my life. Try not to confuse one with the other.

Some people see life as one big chess game. I see it as an argument. This is fitting, as I usually win arguments. When I lose, it’s not so much that I’m wrong as that I’m outmaneuvered. Some people know how to play off of others’ emotions with words. They construct an argument that sounds convincing, but is totally meaningless. Those people are my enemies. I have never been very good at winning in the short term. I just tough it out in the hopes that people will come around eventually. Because it’s not really about winning; it’s about who is left standing. I’m still here.

hawkeye