Half Century Birthday Postopalooza!

12 01 2017

Weather: Oh dear gods, it’s been icy and rainy and cold and weird for DAYS now!

Yup, it’s my birthday today. Fifty years old. My fingers actually creaked as I typed that. (I kid! Honestly I don’t feel remotely that age, so I suppose that’s a good thing.) 

Fifty years. I was born in 1967. It seems like so long ago and yet, not so much. What really puts weight on the years is that I remember events that current college students only read about in text books. I get that weary head shake thing that my parents used to do when I argued with them from books versus things they experienced first hand.

I get it. I really do. Not that the events were more or less awful or fantastic than the events that happen today. I don’t suffer from nostalgia in either direction.  But it’s the subtle difference of watching events unfold in front of you with all the context of being alive at the time, and reading think pieces by people who filter events through current lenses.

We tend to look backwards with a cursory eye, castigating earlier times with a sniffy condescension or raising them well above their deserved level of wonderful. Neither is right. But the babies born now will do the same to our current era, and the cycle continues.

The things that strike me now are less “old person shouts angrily at sky” and more “I’ve seen some shit, man. This is just the same shit with different set dressing.”

Maybe it’s just the shortening of our collective attention span or the voluminous stream of unexamined information that vomits all over us everyday.  I just see a lot of people being very focused on current events – VERY FOCUSED – until something else pushes it aside as the new important thing. I’m not immune, but I’m finding my tolerance for wading into a constant stream of anger and outrage does little to elevate my understanding of things, mostly because emotions can come at the expense of facts. Not always. Not every time. Just often enough that I’ve started just walking away.

Maybe it’s just the weariness that comes from years of trying to dig that old silver lining out of the big black fart cloud that people just keep adding to in lieu of helping you look for the shiny. It’s not blind optimism or false hope I’m trying to excavate, but a way to find a kernel of useful information that might help cut the cloud down to a manageable size. Sometimes there’re more options than just yelling at strangers or going along to get along. Most people think either of those options accomplish more than they actually do. Awareness is their purported goal, but it’s hard to be aware when four different people are yelling at you that their cause is the most important.

SO — this is turning into a rather sobering birthday post, huh?

Well, here’s something for happier thoughts. My goals for this year seem to keep circling back to a few specific things- firstly, I want to focus hard on getting back in shape. At least a shape other than round and squishy.  If I’m gonna last another half century, which I fully intend to, I’m gonna need to get this flesh suit into better shape.
Another thing I’m going to focus hard on is increasing my creative output. Last year there was a dearth of projects on my part, and the truth is I was in a weird distracted head space that comes from applied laziness and worry. There were other mitigating circumstances, but they would be excuses, and I’m kinda done with excuses.
I’m going to pick my battles this year. So I’m hoping people will not be offended if I sit out various stages of culture wars or trying to maintain a constant state of anger at every little thing that drifts across my timeline. Wasted a lot of time and energy I didn’t have to spare on that. There are plenty of people to fight other battles, so I’m not going to jump in on every single one of them.

One thing though -and this is something I wish more people would consider- A lot of people who you assume are ignoring important situations that are happening in this country, are in fact doing a lot of the warfare offline. Sometimes the most effective progress can be made where there are no eyes on you. Making phone calls to people. Showing up to talk to people. Sharing good info is always helpful, yes, but a thousand people unexpectedly making a phone call to an office will do more good than a thousand people signing an online petition.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned over the years, and it’s been a very harsh lesson to learn, has been to pause before saying or posting things. Verify that what you are sharing is actually true. Verify that what you are saying is necessary and not just noise. If 40 people have shared something, are you actually informing anyone or just mushing down the message in a deluge by sharing it as well? Ultimately intent matters across the board. Schadenfreude feels satisfying but is a hollow victory most times. I have no love for internet mobs, even if their cause seems righteous.

I’m going to try and make my next 50 years into something of a sharp campaign of being better. I want things to be better for everyone. I realize there are some people who are intent on working against their own best interests, and sometimes that is not something I can fix. I’m not interested in fighting people to change their minds if they are dead set against even listening. I’d rather try and set a good example, persuade people with good ideas, rather than bludgeon them into my way of thinking. I’m trying to be a better listener, and less of a talker. I am trying to be supportive ally and not a loud usurper. I have causes that I would defend to the ground, but I also am trying to let those who are better equipped or informed take the lead when it comes to discussion.

If this sounds like I’m defaulting to a passive state, you don’t know me very well. I’ve always found that sometimes working when eyes are not on you, gets more done. I might not get to claim any glory, headlines or trophies, but I get shit done when it needs getting done. I’ve always been a better shadow counsel than Queen. So maybe I’m not the loudest person in defense, but do not doubt my resolution or sincere investment in a cause.

So. Fifty years old seems to have stripped the thin veneer of placid courtesy off my personality. I learned a lot by watching Carrie Fisher. I’m no blunt instrument, but neither am I a coddler or enabler for bad behavior. I celebrate the endeavors of those who at least try to make the best of a shitty situation, but have no tolerance for those who would seek to better themselves on the backs of those less fortunate. I’ve got no patience for bullies or the histrionics of the over zealous, regardless of party, preference or fealty.

I know the next four years are going to be interesting (in the Chinese Curse interpretation of the word) but that in no way excuses anyone’s bad behavior. Mine included.

SO. Just to sum up my usual ramblings, I’m getting older, I’m less inclined to play nice if others insist on kicking the beehive and I’m striving to be the best person I can be, considering the circumstances. Hopefully that will be enough motivation and steel to get me through the rest of my life.

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Kicking my own ass because it’s necessary.

4 01 2017

Weather: Gray, with hefty winds, which help the air temp drop into single digits. Had to pin my face on as the cold was insisting on tugging it off. High was somewhere in the mid- 20s though you’d be hard pressed to know it.

Work went quickly today. Home for lunch then I had a few errands to run- meds for the kittie and performing my monthly gas tank refill (it’s so nice to live close to where I work- 5 minutes away!) 

When I got home, the urge to just curl up and get under a blanket was mighty strong. But I tempered it.  Got online and did get sucked in for the duration. Damn it. Managed to pry myself loose and do some exercise. We have stairs to the second floor and a full staircase into the basement. I was doing a circular lap from the second floor into the basement and back up pausing to  do pushups between laps. The number of laps was pitiful but I did get my heart rate up to something resembling cardio. May do another round this evening. Trying to at least force myself into some semblance of accountability.

The title is not literal as I don’t have that kind of flexibility at the moment. However, I am a grown goddamn woman with a brain that can talk me out of doing anything I really don’t want to do. Even if the thing is going to benefit me. Stupid brain. So I sometimes take to berating myself like a drill instructor with an axe to grind. It works. I hate having my laziness pointed out. Granted it’s worse coming from others, but it still gets me moving, albeit with grumbling annoyance. The results will be the reward. I just need to start seeing some.

One thing that has become rather evident since I blew a brain gasket a couple of years ago: I seem to have lost some mental capabilities I used to pride myself on having. One is the ability to visualize things that I’m creating. I have to work very hard at this now. I can’t “see” things the way I used to. Husbeast gave me a couple of tricks to work around it, but it’s vexing that  I can’t do it on spec anymore. Another thing is my facility with words has taken a bit of hit. I can write, no problem, but speaking? I draw a blank a lot of the time and I have to pause and dig for the appropriate word. Do I think this is all due to the brain injury? Maybe. But I know some of it comes from the same short term attention span that a lot of the internet generation suffers from- too much information, all the time. I’ve been combating it with books, forcing myself to focus on the words. This was one thing I discovered last year. Where for years I was able to rip through a hardcover in a weekend and retain fairly good details from the book, suddenly I’m finding I have to re-read a page two or three times to get it. And my retention isn’t what it should be.

The good news (that silver lining that  I always insist on finding) is that a lot of this is reversible with training. And working at it. I have no doubt that with effort I’ll be able to get my brain agile again. Kind of like I hope my physical shape will get back to being more functional and a shape other than “sack of mushy potatoes”.

So today I managed to move, to write and after dinner I’m doing some sketches for new mosaic pieces, so there’s my creative output for the day. Still going strong.

And because you have stuck with this meandering musing, here’s some cat pictures for your troubles….(Left is Lord Snooty of Booty, Right is Lady Fern the Derisive.)

 

And here’s your Gif of Wise Wisdom type Stuff for the day:

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Off to sketch and maybe tackle the Stairs of Jointly Torture.





New Year, New Perspective, New Challenges. Hi 2017! How Ya Doing?

1 01 2017

Weather: High: 38° This may be the first New Year in a while that has been unremittingly Sunny! I hope it bodes well for the year. It’s at least a good start!

So yesterday I posted my year end post, which as per expectation was about looking back. This is my new year post. It’ll mostly be about looking forward. 

As a lot of people have been already proffering up their goals and expectations, I see both some foreboding and some hope in generous proportions.  For myself, I am weighing in heavily on the side of hope. As I saw someone else say last year, Hope and Naivete are similar but not the same. Hope requires effort while Naivete is more based on expectation and assumption. So I’m placing my energies on hope for the short term, although I realize that in order for things to pan out in the positive, there will have to be some work to get there.

For my goals, a lot remain the same as last year: more art, more writing, better health. In general, be a better person. I am already working on the health aspect. (Took a  near 4 mile walk today. Yes in winter, in Michigan. It was cold, but sunny. No excuses.)  Art will start tomorrow, as I’m heading back into the studio. Have a lot of projects on deck and I’m being militant about not sliding into bad habits that include making excuses or being easily distracted. Time is a commodity I am not taking lightly anymore. I’m turning 50 in less than 2 weeks. Seeing people of my age bracket dropping dead of health issues in the past year has put a very sobering sword of Damocles over my head. Either commit to self care and make the effort to get things done, or accept the consequences, short and long term. I’m not willing to throw in the towel because it’s difficult. I rather like a challenge, though I will bitch about it in the beginning.

It’s also going to be a financial rebuilding year for us. We invested a lot of funds in house overhaul last year and this year we need to get ourselves a little more above water than just floating on the surface. (Sorry, living lakeside seems to make a lot of metaphors water related. :shrugs:) Some luxuries are going to be curtailed and some trips & expenditures we were contemplating may be back-burnered for the year. But, that’s the adult part of the equation. Sometimes you can play a little looser with the pocketbook , but there comes the time to pay the piper and you can’t put that off forever.

There’s a lot of uncertainty overall going into this year, what with political shenanigans and the usual global instability. But I think that part of my duty, as a good citizen of this country, is to be vigilant that rights are not eroded and that, as a nation, we don’t start moving backwards. I get that things like economics and foreign policy will always be on the pendulum, swinging back and forth, but I don’t agree that having all citizens of this country being treated with dignity and equality is something we should backtrack on. Moving backwards is despicable and only makes us look the villain, and rightly so, in the eyes of the rest of the civilized world. We’ve kind of fallen backwards in a lot of areas, and that is a little depressing. We’re better than that. We just need to realize it and work on it.

One of the things I think is going to be a big change for me this year is scaling back on social media. I’ve made this claim several years in a row, because I know it’s an ongoing distraction. Weirdly enough, I think it’s going to stick this time, only because last year was so unbelievably ugly that I was actually staying offline to avoid the fracas. Even people I agreed with were getting on my nerves. Social media is mostly my way of staying in touch with long distance relatives, friends and the swath of artists that I consider part of my community. Somewhere along the line, it turned into a loudspeaker of political and opinionated blather, until it was a nonstop stream of only that. I started getting bored, then increasingly annoyed with it. Now, I’m trying to decide if there’s a better way to reduce the signal to noise ratio or if I should just take an extended sabbatical. That remains to be seen.

Studio time is going to become a priority for me, because I’m totally buying into the art as rebellion idea. If the world is going to continue to be ugly, then I will combat it with the tools I have. I’m joining the #MakeArtNotWar Challenge this year. It’s a way to carve out time for my creative pursuits and keep me accountable. Also, I hope it will prompt me to blog more often, read more, write more and just in general generate more new creative output. Some of my fave people to interact with are musicians, writers and artists. Some of them wear all three hats (:cough: Ego Likeness : cough:). But regardless of their chosen medium, these people are always working, day or night, in the mood or not. That’s the work ethic I’m hoping to foster by doing this challenge. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo several years now and I always rise to the challenge there. Now I just need to stretch that commitment out for a year. The nice thing is I can fold my health challenge into this one, because self-care is part of the package.  😀

So in general I have some pretty lofty goals and challenges on the ledger. But I’m already in process on most of them, so they’re not unachievable. The challenge is not letting my commitment lag.

Hopefully, people will be along for the ride, but the truth is I’m doing this even if they’re not. Hitting the half century mark carries some deep implications for me. I desperately need to ingrain some good habits now. Here’s hoping I can make the grooves deep enough to stick.

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Mood: Upbeat, but tired
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: 2 cups of java. Probably some tea later. 
Work-Out Minutes Logged today: 1 hour & 20 Minutes (walked 3.5 miles)
Listening To:
Twenty One Pilots, Ego Likeness & the Hamilton Soundtrack on Spotify
Book Last Read: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: CBS Sunday Morning & Sherlock (Soon!!!)
Latest Artistic Project: Writing:  Editing  Serpents Trilogy
Mosaics:  Holiday ornaments & working on  Nordic  Mandala

 





Time for that End of the Year musing we all dread.

31 12 2016

Weather: Winter is taking a slight break at the moment, as we’re in the 40s for the next few days. Then it’s back into the freezer later in the week.

We haven’t seen a shit-ton of snow so far ::knocks all available wood:: but the weather has been all over the place this year. Summer was cooler than expected, and drier. Spring and Fall both stretched past their usual dates. Not that I’m complaining. (I’m all for the cooler temps to be honest. )

So. New Year’s Eve. We meet again my friend. Been muddling most of the morning on what I wanted to write this year and considering the tenor of 2016, it could turn into a horror story right out the gate.

Truth be told, my personal life has been…okay. The world at large? Not so much. I’ve had idols die this year. (SO MANY OF THEM. WTF, Grim Reaper? Are you training some overeager assistant, because DAMN. )

Politically….the less said the better. The election was a mess. The candidates were unimpressive. The voters were their own worst enemies, if they even voted at all. Infighting made enemies of once allies. Buyer’s remorse seems to be setting in, since we seem to have elected a petulant child with a lengthy slam book in hand to the head of the table. The country by and large seems both weary and uneasy. Not good for what seems to be a fight ahead. Anyone who thinks things will turn around or are not heading into troubled waters should probably be in for some depths of disappointment.

I’ve kind of taken the tact of focusing on what I can do to work on issues locally- Neighborhood, city, community, state levels. The federal government has failed us on so many levels. It seems to have abandoned listening to anyone but those who line their pockets, and even those who would have good intentions are getting pecked to death by supporters who think good is the enemy of perfect. It’s not because I have any animosity to the government as an idea, because when it works, it’s fantastic. I also don’t believe “reducing it to a size that can be drowned in a bathtub” is anywhere in the vicinity of a responsible attitude. People do love their soundbites, don’t they? Regardless of how inane or dangerous the idea is. Sigh. Didn’t really want to turn this into a political assessment, but considering how the ugly side of politics has seeped into every fucking aspect of our lives, it’s hard to pretend it’s not a problem. I’ve seen members of families literally stop talking to each other over this.

Anyway. On less contentious things, I think that this year is the seed of a new creative revolution. Not because things seem bad, but because the underlying structure on how art is made, marketed and shown is shifting. The old label/publishing house/art market structure still exists, but is growing increasingly inadequate to sustain for most creative types out there. More and more people are finding ways to tap their communities for support, and use their own knowledge of their creative output to better market it. It doesn’t mean the methods are becoming more lucrative. But if your only reason for entering the art world is to make money, then I think you need to reassess your reasons. Money will come, but you have to be good at what you do. That takes time and effort.

The patronage model seems to slowly be making a comeback. People are selling directly to their fans and supporters. Commissions are getting done, because of the need for unique pieces of work or exclusive releases seems to be on the upswing. Pre-ordering something that comes from an artist you like and have faith in can sustain that artist. Granted this model works best for those who have an established fan base, less so for those who are starting out. This seems to be where a lot of new creatives are befuddled. There is no magic trick to being successful in anything. A lot of it is timing, some luck, but the truth is – and people for some reason hate hearing this -you have to WORK VERY HARD. Put the time in. Make the sacrifices. Rob Peter to pay Paul, so that maybe you don’t have cable for awhile so you can buy supplies or travel to a convention where you can sell your wares. Practice until you have reasonable mastery. Then keep practicing. There’s always a new level.

This year, I kind of stepped back from a lot of what was happening and just watched. I tried to observe what worked for some people, and what didn’t. I tried to listen when people did write-ups on their experiences, seeing if there was a commonality to the struggles versus their successes. What I didn’t do was join the Greek Choir of “this year is awful and everything is on fire” when it came to whether someone would be successful or not. I watched people who had more limitations on their time and finances become successful, even if it was moderately so, and people who had vast amounts of resources barely break even or fail.

So many iconic artists passed away this year. It’s really not the year. It’s just been overwhelming because there were a lot of trailblazers in there. Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Carrie Fisher – on and on. One thing that all of them had in common was not stopping when things got difficult and not letting the zeitgeist dictate their creative output. The reason that all of them garnered so much respect and why their passing inspired so much emotional response was that we are invested in people who speak to us when we are feeling like outcasts ourselves. When we think the world is looking down it’s nose at us. When we are emotionally low or experiencing those downturns in our lives that inevitably happen. They speak to us. Some of us at different times and for different reasons. We have different favorite  albums, songs, performances. That’s because we needed them for different reasons at different times.

I know this is typically rambly of me, but if I had to glean one lesson from 2016, it was simply that time doesn’t care. It will pass regardless of events, or endings, or procrastination. It will not slow down to accommodate your sorrow, or inability to cope, or vast plans. We lost a lot of people. Some friends lost family. Some lost friends. Some lost idols. We are heading into uncertain times. We are standing at the edge of another year, but this year, things do not carry any assurances. We’re starting the new year battle scarred and a little less hopeful. Doesn’t mean we have to wallow. We can reverse the trend, but again, we have to put the time in.

If 2017 is to be anything more than just more of the same, or heaven forfend, WORSE, it falls on us to do something about it. Make the new year YOUR year. Step away from howling morass of social media politics. It is possible to be informed without having to get mired down in things. It’s possible to make improvements, to get your voice heard, and to express your hopes, desires and yes, disapproval. You will probably have to work harder to be heard. You probably will have to apply a lot more critical thinking when you read things, seeing that there are people actively trying to mislead you now. Most are easily avoided.

One thing I would advise to all: Even if something makes you angry, if a person is pissing you off to all ends– Don’t mention them by name. “Internet famous” has no downside anymore. Even if 90% of you are speaking about someone with disdain and anger, you are still making their name trend. And trust me, most of these jackasses care more about that than worry about your negative view of them.
There are exceptions, of course. If someone needs exposing, then by all means do so. (But make sure your accusations are founded, documented and make sure that collateral damage is not hitting innocent people. Internet mobs are less helpful than you think, although they feel good when you’re angry at something/someone. Yes, you have to make that effort. Otherwise you are no better than them.)

STOP MAKING STUPID PEOPLE FAMOUS. 

Yes, even our elected officials. (You notice I didn’t mention anyone by name above. Wasn’t necessary. You know who I was talking about.)

Sorry for the downer post, but it’s been a downer of a year. Still, there’s always room to head up and that’ll be the focus of my New Year’s Day post.

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I’ll be back tomorrow for my thoughts for the new Year. 😀

Thanks for reading my write-ups this year. I truly appreciate it.