Living in the Gray

Introvert or extrovert? Can I answer Both or Neither? Or, Sometimes?

I don’t like parties, but I don’t like being alone either. I like a round table in a quiet restaurant, surrounded by interesting and interested people. I don’t like confrontation or arguments, but I’ll dive right into a heated discussion on a topic I feel I know something about. Like how no one, and I mean NO ONE, lives at the extremes. We all have a bit of the gray lurking in us.

We use these labels to help define who we are. But that definition is the first line in a Wikipedia entry, just the intro, or summary. If you actually want to know anything about me, you have to keep reading.  But, full disclosure: it all gets very, very complicated.

For example, I can’t blame my dislike of parties on something as simple as introversion. Yes, the sound of too many people talking hurts my ears, I feel sometimes like I am drowning in sound, and I can’t distinguish any particular voice. The press of bodies initiates a flight or fight response, the sensation of eyes on me at all times churns my stomach, already taxed by the constant sucking in. I’m uncomfortable if I’m not actively engaged in a conversation, the embarrassment of a wallflower, feeling like the most boring person in the room. (Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, Guess I’ll go eat worms  – an adorable segue) 

However…

Let that party move to a bar…  And now I can sit on a bar stool, I have a designated place. Suddenly, none of what I described bothers me in the least.

See, complicated. And that is true for you too. Personality tests are fun, but don’t limit yourself to the results. That would truly be boring.

(Prompted by my wonderful evil-step-uncle who told me yesterday that I wasn’t boring.)

And here is another drawing, apropos of nothing.

 

What am I?

What am I?

A writer or a reader? A gamer or a watcher?

A lover or a friend? A sister or a scold?

An artist? A creator? A cook? A cleaner? An employee?

All of these things. And many more.

I wonder though, if I stopped doing everything, and just did one thing, what would happen?  I could become the world’s greatest something.

It is a lack of focus, or stick-to-it-tiveness, or drive or passion… The symptoms of a fractured mind, a scatterbrain, or someone who gets bored really, really quickly.

Who knows…  I’m not really looking for answers, I’m just filling up a page of time with words to show I was here.

And to give me an excuse to show off the squirrel I just painted.

Why do you care?

You want them to like you. Or rather, you want them to not hate you so much. Not hate you at all, really. 

You want them to get past your past sins.

What is it like, you wonder, to hold on to hate for so long? To have to remind yourself over and over again about the bad thing someone did. To cling with sharp, pointy nails to a gurgling, bubbling, putrid mass of slippery, slimy acid. Hate eats away at your insides, you know. Forms gaping holes of darkness. Those holes feel so empty, hungry, they need constant food and attention, but the only food they can consume is more raw hate.

Forgetting is much easier on your system. You don’t even have to forgive to get the benefits of forgetting, though the one often begets the other. Forgetting is smooth, silky warmth. It’s like a blanket that is always the right size. Time encourages forgetfulness. It is a natural part of life. An evolutionary dominate trait, passed down through generations of long-lifers. You know them, the truly happy old folks who can’t remember any of the mean things other folks did, right?

They are the winners, the ones who forget to hate, who live in the bliss of remembered kindness.

It is in your nature to care what others think of you, but try to stop. When next you see them, remember this: The suffering you feel under their hateful gaze is nothing compared to the vile pain they nurture within.

Feel sorry for them, and then, forget them.

Face your Fears. Draw the Birds.

I’m drawing birds despite my fear of them. (Though, I have just discovered, some are more afraid than I am.  This is hysterically funny.)

Today I drew a pigeon. I hate pigeons. They are dirty and they do not fear humans. A terrible combination.

After pecking a bit around Google Images, I found a picture I liked of a pigeon with long legs, which is a plus if you are going to draw a bird wearing boxer shorts. Which is a thing now, if you didn’t know.

The picture lead me to a website: pigeon-bg.com

From the about page:

Hello, my name is Stefan Dobrev Radev. I have been breeding homing pigeons since 1981. The idea about the Pigeon Race Course “Kalimantsi” originated in 2003 and in March 2004 I started its implementation with the help of some friends and colleagues of the Homing Pigeon Breeders Club “Polet” Varna.

A club.  For pigeon breeders. How does one become a pigeon breeder?  Why does one become a pigeon breeder?

I can’t understand how the race works, but apparently this year’s first prize winner will receive 3500 EUR which is, roughly, 4850 USD. That seems like a lot of money to win for racing a pigeon.

This is a weird world we live in.

I love it.

a-racing-pigeon

This is my year to win it! I’m gonna fly like the wind. Eat My Tail Feathers!

A Moment in Time

The happy ending is a lie. It isn’t the end that is happy. The end, the real end, is so far off in the distant future that it is impossible to see from here. Here, now, on the inside of a moment. Because that is what it is, a moment. Not an ending or a beginning, just a snipped bit of time. Taken out of context, framed and mounted, and lit with a soft glow, flattering like candlelight.

I’ve put so much weight onto that moment. That moment in the driveway with my car packed, the decisions past, plans fulfilling, journey ahead, trial behind. A slice of perfect time. A deep breath of beautiful free air and then I got into my car and I drove from one life to another. Poor old moment. It is sagging with age now and hasn’t been dusted in a while.

I want that moment back. I want to feel again that blooming, opening, sprouting rush of newness. Of possibility. That solid knowledge that I was the luckiest person in the world. That if everyone in the world could feel the anticipatory joy I felt, if everyone’s jaws ached with the nonstop grin, there’d be no more war or pain anywhere. Perhaps. Maybe. For a moment.

I’m not unhappy. I’m just regular. I’m what people mean when they say, “I’m fine.” “I can’t complain.” I’m alive and healthy and loved and the sun keeps on coming up in the east. The bills are paid. I have clothing and shelter and food and friends. Life is good.

Good. Fine.

But once upon a time life was brilliant. Once I breathed the air of such intense joy that I couldn’t see the road for the tears.

Once upon a time I lived happily ever after inside a moment.  The moment ended, but life continued on.

“Oh if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one,
But if life were only moments,
Then you’d never know you’d had one.”
― Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

Why does this make me feel dirty?

Self promotion makes me horribly uncomfortable.
Sell Art OnlineThe thing is, if this were someone else, I would advise them to advertise on their blog, duh!

How else will people know you are selling yourself if you don’t occasionally put out the streamers and the scary balloon-man with the waving tentacle-arms?

And another thing… I’ve noticed I feel depressed every time I finish a drawing. I think it is a reaction to the sudden lack of creative focus. The chemicals that swirl around my brain while I’m working on something make me feel really good, but then it’s done and they all dry up.  Maybe I just need to draw out the joy this piece gave me as long as possible by sharing it with as many people as possible.  Or maybe I’m just desperate for attention.

Either way, it wont last. As soon as I find a new idea to pour my mind into, this piece will become amateurish trash.

Define Art

I recently finished working on a bit of artwork. I had the idea of making one of those old fashioned, victorian era botanical drawings but to use creatures and colors not found in real life.

I finished the painting (my first ever watercolor) and was completely disappointed. I liked all the parts of it, but I didn’t like the whole. What to do, throw it away and start over? Maybe… Or – Photoshop it!

It’s my painting, I can photoshop if I want to… right?

Why do I feel like it is cheating?

Part of the problem is that I am old enough to remember a time before photoshop existed, when there was no magic tool to fix red eye, or to crop or blur. I can imagine that for people who’ve never known a time without digital art the distinction wouldn’t be as great. Another part is the world’s strange need to know what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fake.’ Many have learned the hard way that there is no room for imagination in their works of art. If your memoirs aren’t completely fact checked, then beware the wrath of Oprah! The honest message you are trying to get across isn’t the point, it’s the color of the man’s tie on that day, at that hour that’s important!

I made up a picture in my head. A fake picture of fake things. I sat down at my desk, broke out my new tools and put that fake idea down on to real paper. I took that real paper and made a digital copy of it. It’s still real, but made of zeros and ones now. I pushed and pulled those digital bits, I added and subtracted ones to the zeros and zeros to the ones. All still real, all still done by me with the help of tools. Paper, paint, mouse, water, photoshop, brush.

Real or fake. You decide. But before you do, before you rip it to shreds, try to enjoy it first. See if it makes you feel anything. Because that is how I define art: A thing made by someone else that makes me feel something that I didn’t feel before. Don’t care how you made it, my feeling about it is all the real I need.

 

The Drive Home

My tired eyes move rapidly left, right, left, right, trying and failing to grab the blurred images I see through the speeding car’s window. I can’t feel the movement, but I know it is happening because I have seen the effect on other people. On some level I am registering what I am seeing, another car, the lines in the road, the guard rail, but only because I already know what I am supposed to be seeing. The blur fits in with pre-identified objects. My eyes do a tremendous amount of work, while my brain sits back with a yawn and lazily categorizes.

Why do I feel so small in the back seat of this cab? I feel like a child, my eyes are only just level with the lower edge of the window next to me, and the glass partition separating me from the driver restricts my view to the front. I have to strain to sit up and lean forward to see anything more than cloudy sky. I feel safer in the back of this cab than I normally do in cars with other people driving. I think it is because I can’t see potential death every other second, a car drifting into our lane, a bit of trash flying into a windshield, someone going too fast or too slow and throwing off the rhythm, a pothole, an animal, a rain drop, because I can’t see anything at all.

Perhaps I am confusing the feeling of safety with the feeling of relief. I’m on my way home from a meeting in a horrible place. A building with no solid walls. Transparent glass partitions for the conference rooms, but for the employees, every thought, every feeling, every need, exposed to the world. The insanity of the modern, open-air office space. I cringed every time that stranger, across the aisle from the glass box I sat in, casually looked up from her screen right at me. People surround her on all sides, staring at screens, mice in hands, all of them aware that if they stopped appearing focused, if they took a breath, a sip of coffee, stretched back their mouse-cramped arms and closed their eyes for even a second, the entire office would see and judge that moment as unproductive. I shiver in sympathy for the imagined torture.

The person I am meeting with, when I ask how he likes working in that space, says that it is cold. Open air is hard to insulate, I say. I try to explain how awful this environment is and he says what everyone in corporate america says, but Google does it this way…  But Google isn’t corporate america, it is a fantasy land where people are recognized and honored for their creativity. That is not the reality of your corporation, I want to say, but don’t. I’m there to help him be creative, after all. The extent of my creativity, for the entire four-hour meeting, is making a plus sign in PowerPoint grow and shrink. That’s it, and they all ooh and ah like I’ve made magic.

I give tiny bits of advice. Too many words, not every slide needs a title, perhaps you can show an image and just say those points aloud. But they don’t listen. They need their charts and their bullet points, and, honestly, they are correct. The data points are important, the people attending the conference next week need to learn these details.

The tiny details, this number or that went up or down, these people here want this thing, those people there want something else. Slide after slide after slide. There is too much. The dots and lines and letters and numbers blur into something the eye can’t follow anymore. But the tool used to convey the information through hard-working eyes to lazy brains, PowerPoint in this case, doesn’t matter, so don’t get mad at it. The problem is the information itself.

My eye moves, left, right, left, right, my hand moves the mouse to follow. I capture conversation and translate sounds to symbols. I can’t see through the glass at the stranger across the aisle anymore because I’ve sunk too low behind my screen.  Four hours of pushing pixels until…  I escape from the glass box, from the cold, open air, from the constant, unblinking eyes of others.  Out through the revolving door and to the street where I can hale the cab that will take me home.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2014/01/the-open-office-trap.html

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