Friday, March 12, 2021

v=d/t

Hello, step into my mind. It lives in a beige house, on a beige street, where it talks about the weather to all the beige people it meets. Sometimes I wonder if small talk is the lowest acceptable means to maintaining the minimum social balance. It's the sawdust in your favourite fast food burgers.

I'm so bored right now. Critically understimulated, perhaps. Sure, there are some freelance projects to work on. I'm also employed by an estate to handle affairs, and there's an unlimited supply of paperwork to sort through. For as many folders, labels, and paperclips this particular deceased had amassed, they were utterly terrible at being organized. Imagine devoting a lifetime of collecting and cultivating orange trees while simultaneously appearing as a cover model for Scurvy Monthly. My teeth aren't that great, but at least it has nothing to do Vitamin C.

There's so much to do, and so little I want to do. This could be the general malaise of COVID-flavoured lockdown - there are a few articles online that detail the general 'fog' that people have been trapped in as a result. That's what I'll chalk my dwindling mental horsepower to at least. When an MRI declines to open up an avenue for your fears to run down, it helps to have another street to turn onto. Even if the street name is just the title of an article you didn't really bother to read in the first place.

But what about this general unrest? Yes, I'm sure it'd help to have a more open world to go and be exposed to for a bit. As fun as it is for my face mask to go sauntering around with my shuffling body strapped in for the ride, the whole symbiotic partnership is getting a bit old-hat. The mask itself isn't the issue, but the what-ifs that it signifies. What if I only sanitize my hands after removing the mask? Will I get it then? What if I make just one extra stop today, will that increase my general exposure? At what point do we start inserting more shells into this chamber of mundane and tedious version Russian-roulette?

I'm sitting here at my desk on a Friday night. I have a Lego Porsche kit sitting on the dining room table, 2/3 of the way to completion. What happens after I finish it, give in the customary inspection, and set it nicely on the shelf never to be touched again? I can't take it apart and rebuild it - that's just not what grownups do.

There are many games I could be playing just for the sake of it. A few new ones I could purchase too - I'm slowly realizing that, as a bona-fide grownup, I can afford to buy the games I want, when I want them. Sometimes it's just better to try something new than retread ground on a game (or whatever) that's just so-so, in order to whittle away the hours. Perhaps there's a different sort of price to be paid for spending your time on something that is neither stimulating, satisfactory, or enjoyable. The monetary price for a new game could very well be less expensive. I wonder what the conversion is on that exchange.

But what happens when that shiny glow of consumerist magic gives way to a patina of 'been there, done that'? Is this what life is reduced to, just paying in $50 increments to entertain yourself through life, one title at a time? I owned Flight Simulator 2004 as a teenager, and I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I only used it to toodle around the area where I lived. The entire world at my fingertips, and I was perfectly content to just stroll around my yard a couple times before losing enthusiasm and going back inside and look to the next thing to amuse myself. Entertain me, peasants!

This winter I bought a decent joystick and throttle setup this winter so that I could play the new Microsoft Flight Simulator in VR. It's wonderful. A game-changing experience that's helped me realize just how much potential VR can have. A rich experience and attention to detail draped over, quite literally, the entire world. And yet I set out to fly across Canada and have lost not fuel, but steam, by the time I reached the Great Lakes. Here I am repeating the same ambivalent crimes of my youth.

What really bothers me, deep down, is my lack of desire to want anything. "Ah, yes," you say as you adjust your glasses and softly stroke your chin, "this would be a classic symptom of depression." Yes, of course, but it doesn't make it any less horrifying. And at the same time underwhelming, because, well, depression.

I had to pause and do a solid Ctrl+F on my blog for "depression". I was worried I had covered this exact reader-as-patronizing-therapist bit before, but I don't think I have. That illuminates one of the darker corners of this whole ordeal, though; I feel like I've been here before. Whether it's the COVID fog or not, I'm worried that I've been travelling in circles along this particular forest path. A path of total, all-encompassing lack of enthusiasm. I'd be making more progress if I were to be folded up into a half-assed little paper boat and set in a gutter. At least when the rains come I know I'd be headed away from where I am now.

Do you know what the difference is between speed and velocity? Speed is measured as the amount of distance covered in a unit of time. Velocity is the measured displacement covered in a unit of time. Displacement, as in distance from the point of origin. You can be pushing along at a violent speed for hours and hours, but if you come to a stop exactly where you started you will have achieved a velocity of 0km/h. Or 0 mph, for the depressed population to the South. At least the conversion would be non-zero if speed/velocity was measured in units of temperature (Farenheit is a messed up unit of measurement, man).

Friday night. It's Friday night. Even as a metaphorical card-carrying introvert, I used to look forward to Friday nights. Scarf down some dinner and curl up to game my face off until 1am or 2am. Nothing but pure entertainment indulgence fueled by the knowledge I could sleep in. Then I'd wake up the day after, do some chores, and game s'more. If there weren't any any freelance deadlines breathing down my neck, I'd game during the week after work.

We are truly blessed to live in the golden age of distraction. Tired of gaming? Take a break by watching a movie. Or browsing the internet; I hear that thing is pretty popular these days. I had a teacher in high school that tried to get us to call it "The Information Superhighway". A much more dignified title, wouldn't you say? If that name had stuck I wonder if we'd treat it with more respect and reverence.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go re-check my RSS feeds and open up Reddit for the 14th time today. I bet there are some new cat photos or cringey stories I can binge on until bed time gets off its ass and shows up. It's Daylight Savings Time this weekend, so we're already losing an hour. I wouldn't mind losing a couple more while we're at it. Lord knows I don't have anything better to be doing.

-Cril

Dave Brubeck - Unsquare Dance

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Parade of Ghosts

I typically don't dream much. Or, if you want to get all technical, it's rare for me to retain my dreams to the point where I realize they exist once morning rolls around. Lately, though, my late night apparitions have been common and consist of people I once knew.

Such as Tyler, from highschool. He was a pretty optimistic guy, even though he never seemed to get the vertical growth spurt the rest of us were entitled to. He was always short, but it never really got to him. He had menial jobs from time to time, saving up what he could. One week he came to me and asked if I could drive him into town to hit the grocery store; his parents had both lost their jobs and food was running thin. We took the afternoon and overloaded a shopping cart with all sorts of essentials. The cashier remarked something along the lines of, "Wow, you guys have got this all figured out!" when we approached the till and Tyller emptied his savings account. We drove back to his house and I helped put all the food away. I remember sitting there playing Goldeneye, as awkward as a teen can be, when his mom arrived home. She cried and cried and hugged her son in the kitchen. She thanked me too, and I offered a sheepish "no problem" or something. I didn't really do much to contribute. Tyller stood pretty damn tall that day. I haven't talked to him since graduation.

OTIS! Not a person, but a cream-coloured teddy bear hamster. He got the name from looking like, well, oats. And from the Christopher Reeve's first Superman movie, in which Luthor's henchman was Otis. He had his own theme music and everything. Anyways, my sister and I both got our hamsters one year for Christmas. At one point he made an escape from the cage and went missing for about a week. I had almost written him off when my oldest sister came knocking at my door late one night. There, in her hands, was my cream-coloured fuzzball looking like Steve McQueen after a failed attempt in the Great Escape. Apparently he was found rustling around in some boxes. He died after a long and uneventful life, as hamsters tend to do. He was buried in the flower garden. He was my first pet, in a way.

Elissa, the New York Girlfriend. I don't know quite how to frame this one; she was a sweet girl and I was overwhelmed with life. I was in an incredibly terrible headspace to have a relationship, but I still feel decidedly lucky that our paths crossed the way it did. Having someone else to see the world through really helped me better appreciate where I was and experience the city around me. I think we had a lot of good times. She had an amazingly cute smile. I remember when she scored the job she wanted, and when we went to see A Gentleman's Guide to Murder on broadway, and when she took me to this niche little dessert cafe and we ate something that looked like a small potted plant. I remember kissing her on the cheek before she got off the subway. One dark and rainy night toward the end of our time together, I got out of an Elbow concert and went over to help her pack up from her dorm room.

I think it was a relationship of circumstances, and it dissolved shortly after I left. A lot of that falls on my shoulders - I was pretty overwhelmed with my life, and I wasn't capable of handling things particularly well at the time. A few years ago she told me she doesn't want to have anything to do with me, and I don't blame her. I still think fondly on our time together, though. It really added a bit of magic and richness to those 10 months of my life. I hope she's well.

Then there's the Chicken Lady. Through some winding circumstances, I've found myself in her home and sorting through every conceivable type of personal belonging. I fished out some unmarked cassette tapes from the bottom of one box, and after a bit of mental-reorientation, I figured out how to play them on a stereo I found in a bedroom closet. Lo and behold, it was her voice. Reading some novel, I think, as a way to practice her English. She sounded younger than I remember her, and the last time I heard her was on a voicemail she left me. Despite my effort, it got deleted from my inbox. Hearing her voice hit me like a brick. It made me feel self-conscious as I rifled through the leftover fragments of her life.

I've been learning a lot about her as I pass over every single item she owned. She liked her stationary - I have a giant box of pens and pencils and have at least a dozen pairs of scissors. I've turned up at least two-dozen notebooks, not a single one that had been filled more than half way. Most consist of notes from school, random phone numbers, and simple tasks to be completed. Some of them were more like journals. She must've been really lonely, she talked quite a bit about how she shouldn't love or trust anyone. And yet in life, I noticed how she'd find a person and cling to them as long as they'd let her. Myself included. I found one passage that simply reads, "I am short, argumentative, stubborn." I had a chuckle at that one, with how blunt of an assessment it was.

Apparently she was also quite a reader. I've been uncovering stacks of books. One of which was a paperback copy Of Mice and Men. On the back is a little seal that reads, "John Steinbeck - Winner of the Nobel Prize". In blue ball point it has been authoritatively crossed out with a note reading, "Stupid, Stupid, Stupid, Stupid, Stupid + Stupid". What a great little window into her psyche. It's odd how I'm getting to know her better now than ever before, even though she's gone.

-Cril


Efforts of lovers
Left in my mind
I sing in the reaches
We'll see what we find

People they come together
People they fall apart
No one can stop us now
'Cause we are all made of stars

Moby - We Are All Made of Stars

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Choo-Choo

I've been mildly, hopelessly, miserable lately. It could be that I haven't been significantly mentally stimulated for the past little while. My solution thus far has been to force the matter into a pool of self improvement. Every day for the past month or so I've been writing in my journal, playing an instrument, exercising, and sketching. I should feel pretty proud of myself, but to be honest the journal entries are perfunctory, the sketches are lazy, and the music is scarcely more than a few plunks on a few chords. They're my end-of-day chores that I do to most uninspired of capacities.

It's having the opposite effect to what I had in mind. I'm losing more and more faith in myself as I look at the (lack of) results. There's no sense of self and a conspicuous absence of improvement. It's all rather disheartening.

I'm a big fan of delayed gratification. That's no secret. So usually at the end of the work day I unwind by putzing around online, doing some gaming, and watching whatever videos catch my attention. But you see, I don't really actually enjoy much of any of that. It's like being led along by the carrot, except the carrot is just a rock. Once I get my hands on it, and at the end of each day I always do, I find myself thinking, "Wait, what is all the fuss about?" An abundance of attention, but a void of intention. It's become distraction for distraction's sake.

Part of this could be my lack of mental/intellectual stimulation during the day. My girlfriend is a good example: I could never understand how she can spend the entire evening just vegging out with iPad games and crap TV. I do freelance! I work on my car! I work on sorting out an estate! The catch, though, is that during her work day she's doing big-brained things that she gets a lot of satisfaction from. And once she's done, she's satisfied by taking it easy with some mindless entertainment.

Meanwhile, I spend most of my work day mentally checked out so that I can complete what gets passed across my desk to meet the low standards and small expectations. Then I do some simple freelance or whatever, which helps me make up for a lackluster salary. No one wants something new or challenging; they're paying me to make something that looks passable and can be turned around quickly. After that, I try to unwind and check out with internet/videos/games. But it turns out that I've already been checked out since I sat down at my desk first thing in the morning. Which raises the unfortunate question... when was the last time I was checked in? Hell, when was the last time I was even in the building.

It's no surprising that I can't find enjoyment or satisfaction from anything.

And so for the next two weeks, my therapist has challenged me to cut out games, videos, and internets from my mindless repertoire. Oof. Take those away, and what else do I have? Sleep. It makes me want to give up and go to sleep. Almost like a toddler; once my favourite toys are taken away I just want to pout and hide away.

So things are going to get interesting. I can start reading all the things to occupy myself. I can delve even harder into my extra-curricular professional tasks. Or maybe I can write, draw, exercise, and play music like I actually mean it. The question is whether or not I can jump from the Chore tracks, clean over Mere Distraction, and onto the Actual Hobby line. That's a big ask for a freight train of mindless productivity like me.

Here's hoping.

-Cril

When I wake up
Someone will sweep up my lazy bones
And we will rise in the cool of the evening
I remember the way that you smiled
When the gravity shackles were wild
And something is vacant
When I think it's all beginning

I been drifting along
In the same stale shoes
Loose ends tyin' a noose
In the back of my mind
If you thought that you were making your way
To where the puzzles and pagans lay
I'll put it together
It's a strange invitation

Beck - Jack-Ass