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Fog.

I listened to an episode of Reply All today. For reasons that ultimately aren’t that important, PJ and Alex decided to take calls from the public for 48 hours straight. As the hours wear on, it starts to feel unreal—a delirious haze of half-consciousness. Words, words, words, misty and ephemeral, going on and on and on. The ordinary openings, “hello”, “hey”, “how are you”, usually polite and banal, feel like an increasingly violent assault when fired off by an endless stream of strangers, a burden that becomes heavier and heavier—until you can hear the strain and desperation in these usually cheerful and snappy voices.

It’s something I feel a little bit every day, in every single one of these kinds of surface interactions, a heaviness. Only now, it’s been multiplied and magnified by this strange experiment, to the point where everyone else can feel it too. A few minutes of silence, provided by a listener who called in just to put her phone on mute for them, is a welcome relief. A few people call in and share real stories, moments from their real lives—these are also a welcome relief. The truth in their words, emotion without affectation, cuts right through the noise. Their voices are like churchbells ringing out over a valley of fog.

And now, I’m sitting at work, and I’m listening to a new album by a band called Lucius. I’ve never heard of them before today. But they sing out: “Don’t want to talk to you today / don’t want to play the games you wanna play.” Another song starts out “Maybe I’ll drive myself to madness… spinning in circles / don’t have it figured out just yet.” Maybe it’s coincidence and it only feels related. I’m open to the idea of confirmation bias. But there’s something about it that feels connected and comforting.

I find myself longing for a room with warm but gentle lighting—filament lights, strings of twinkle lights, a fireplace maybe—where I can sit and be with the people I care about most for a few hours. I want to cast a magic spell—a spell that makes it so that my words don’t feel all awkward and my voice doesn’t sound strange to me after it leaves my throat. A spell that creates a moment of understanding. Or maybe it would be enough to have a moment of silence, where we can sit together and appreciate the absurdity of it all. Or maybe we drive to the ocean and listen to the waves for a while.

The ocean doesn’t say “hi”, “hello”, “how are you”. It says “Shhhhhh. Shhhhhhh.”

Balance.

A week ago, I went to Wendy’s. I ordered a healthy salad and a diet Coke, like a good girl, but then, at the last second, my resolve to be healthy wavered just a tiny little bit, and I asked them to add on a 4-piece spicy chicken nuggets. And some ketchup, please. I was super excited about getting these spicy chicken nuggets, since I don’t always indulge… and the anticipation grew as I waited in line. But when I drove away and looked in my bag, I realized: There were only three spicy chicken nuggets. One nugget was missing. I would only be able to enjoy seventy-five percent of the spicy goodness that I had been looking forward to.

On any given day, I find myself spending a fair amount of time thinking about people who are suffering in the world. I think about refugees, about people in Syria, poor children and cancer patients. I feel overwhelmingly grateful for my life. I know I didn’t do anything to deserve it and I know it could end at any moment. I don’t have anything to complain about, truly.

But I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed to see that I only had three chicken nuggets. “Ah, well,” I thought. I ate my three spicy chicken nuggets with extra ketchup (I love ketchup), and I moved on with my life.

Three days later, I went to Wendy’s again. I went through the drive-thru, and once again, I ordered spicy chicken nuggets along with my meal. I need to be careful. I really can’t afford to have this become a habit—they’re not amazingly healthy and let’s face it, they’re orange. But they’re just so good. Anyway, as I was pulling away from the drive-thru this time, I saw that there were five. FIVE! Five chicken nuggets, when I had only been expecting four! Balance was restored in that moment, suddenly and unexpectedly. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me feel better about my life, about the world, and about the path forward into an uncertain future.

After Effects.

So, after listing out a bunch of things I’m interested in learning, I settled on After Effects. That’s what I’m most interested in right now, so that’s what I’m going to work on.

And after watching a bunch of tutorial videos tonight, may I stop for a moment and say: I love lynda.com. Seriously. What a great service. I feel so lucky to have spent some time working there. Everyone I met there is passionate and dedicated and they do an amazing job producing the best software and skills training I’ve ever seen on the web.

Not to sound too much like a commercial, but one member sent us a testimonial that said it was like plugging into the Matrix, and I think that’s about right.

Anyway… After Effects. We’ll see where this goes.

It’s November 2. What do you want to learn today?

If you stop learning, you start dying. A little bit at a time. Not super noticeable at first, but eventually it’ll kill you.

I think I’ve gotten lazy lately. Not, like, super lazy… but kinda lazy. I haven’t been learning very much. Yes, yes, I’m still playing the viola, and I’m still learning, still getting better, so that’s good. But in terms of work projects—learning new techniques and tools and ways to create the work that I have to produce… I haven’t done any of that in a while now. There’s so much going on, that it’s easy to just say, “later”. I’ll learn that later. I’ll try that later. I’ll do that later.

But “later” never really gets here.

Sometimes at work, when someone asks me to do something, and I just start doing it right then, they seem baffled for a minute. I’ve told people before that there are two times I do things, and I can either do it “right now”, or “not at all”. While that’s a little bit exaggerated, it’s really not *that* much of a stretch. How many things do I feel like I’m kind of, sort of, maybe planning to do, possibly in a month, maybe in 6 months, maybe next year?

It’s a lot. And I think it’s time for me to take stock of those things, count them all up, maybe write them on papers, pick the one (or two) that I’m going to do RIGHT NOW, and then rip up all the rest and free myself from the “could’ve would’ve should’ve”. It’s not like I won’t have ideas later, about what I should be, could be, maybe might be wanting to do later. If it’s a good idea, it will come back. But I think tonight I’m going to release myself from the guilt, and get back the focus that comes from having real projects and goals that I’m working on RIGHT NOW.

Hey. Guess what? It’s November.

It’s November now. Suddenly. And I find myself this morning, sitting here at my desk, thinking, “I can’t believe October went by so fast.” Truly, it feels like it just… *poof*! Disappeared. Flung itself headlong right off the edge of a cliff. Vanished, leaving nothing but a puff of pumpkin spice behind.

I love October. It’s probably my favorite month. This year, I remember waking up on the first day of October—it felt like a big breath of fresh air when it finally arrived. When I realized it was October, and I took in that first lungfull of “crisp October morning”, something in my chest just opened right up. In that moment, I felt like somehow, everything would be all right.

So… it’s been a really, *really* great year. I have found myself truly happy, in some ways that I didn’t even know I could *be* happy. But the thing is, often when I’m feeling happiest, that’s the time that I’m most likely to find myself thinking about loss and sadness. When I’m happy, I often think about time passing, about the ending of whatever wonderful experience I’m having. When I’m with my loved ones, I hold them close and I think about the inevitability of death, and I wonder how soon it’s coming for them, for me. I worry about car accidents and cancer and even more mundane things like changing life circumstances that cause friendships to fade. And so, this year, with so much happiness, I’ve also had a lot more thoughts about sadness. It’s been interesting and strange.

But October, with its coolness and its morning sunlight that is somehow bright without being harsh… something about it invites you to put on a fuzzy jacket, snuggle up in a blanket, be cozy and comfortable and warm with the people you love, and for a moment, maybe not worry so much about things like that, and instead just enjoy the sound of the leaves rustling, and the feeling of being snuggled up together on an October day.

I feel like I needed October in order to be ready for November, ready for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays that are coming so soon now. That breath, after summer, and before the winter. I’m glad I got to feel that October air this year.

And with that, Happy November, everyone.

pika