Streets Like Metaphors

For a long time, I’ve been TERRIFIED of riding my bike on the road.

Just recently, they finished up an improvement project on my block. Before it started, the street I live on might have been charitably described as a pothole canal loosely connected by strings of delicate asphalt-and-concrete lace. Sidewalks? Not here. Just trampled paths through neighborhood yards, washing bits of lawns out into the street when it rained.

The project meant the street was torn up, unrecognizable, inaccessible, inconvenient, smelly, and pummeled by heavy machinery for a long time. Just getting home was sometimes a bit of an adventure.

But after a summer of painstaking progress, now it’s finished. There is a a glorious, smooth new road! It’s broad and flat and well-painted! It’s beautiful! There’s a sidewalk and real curb! There’s a BIKE LANE!

And I can ride that bike lane all the way to the end of the block. Where it abruptly ends and dumps you back out into traffic and potholes.

That’s my life in a nutshell right now, kids.

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The Unhungry Cat

The cat is very sick. The vet has given us pills & potions to try to combat the effects of severe kidney failure. Winston is “leaking oil”, says the vet – his kidneys are basically not doing much of anything anymore. He is thirsty all the time, expelling all the water he drinks and most of the vitamins and protein he takes in along with it.

The cat is cuddly and cheerful, but dying. He won’t eat. First he refused kibble but would eat canned food. Then only certain brands, then only certain textures of those brands, then only the prescription stuff, then only human baby food. Now I can’t even get him to eat the two teaspoons a day that I mix his powdered medicine into.

I’ve tried every trick I know: sprinkling it with fish flakes, giving him a hit on the ‘nip as an appetite stimulant, waving it under his nose while he’s sleeping, letting him lick it off my fingers. It hasn’t worked. I spent an hour this evening listening to podcasts, crying, and trying to get the cat to eat. It is a glamorous life. NPR between sniffles. Me and the gaunt little purring spotted cat.

winston2 winston3winston1

Watching him starve slowly is rough. He’s gotten so used to me popping pills, gels and powders at him that he now flinches when I walk up to him. Poor little buddy.

He’s been a champ about letting me do sub-cutaneous rehydration and he’s a dream cat to give pills. He HATES the gel that I squirt into his mouth, but swallows most of it. He’s only missed the litterbox twice. He’s dying, but he’s dying so very, very politely.

I basically feel terrible about the fact that I’m never home, and he only sees me when I’m forcing pills down his throat. I work. I have a social life these days (weirdly). Since Winston was diagnosed a month ago, I have only spent one full day at home. I went up north on vacation, I went to the renaissance fair, I went to the apple orchard, I went to pub trivia, etc etc. Summer was borderline boring. Fall is already crazy busy.

I’m supposed to leave for an extended vacation to Portland next week, my first in a while. I haven’t planned anything. I don’t have a flight or a hotel. I don’t have a boarding plan for the cats. I’ve never had to board an animal before. Normally I would have this all planned out and be able to do things in between times. (Well, I mean, mostly planned out. Let’s be honest, I’m never QUITE prepared for anything. But it’s usually not this bad.)

Things are a mess right now. There are so many things that I want to do! But I need to call a moratorium on being social for a while. Not because Winston’s a mess. Because I am.

It’s not all because of the cat. I haven’t been giving myself enough down time. There are periods when my brain just plain requires a lot of breathing room. Sometimes it’s better to power through — but I’ve been trying that, and this seems to be a time when I need to power down, instead. Every time I’ve tried to be social lately, I’ve enjoyed the company, but the rebound time required has been dramatic.

I am going to have to ask my friends to be patient if I go on retreat for a few weeks. I want to do social things with you guys a lot. I do. But afterwards, I feel so drained and strained and unhappy. This isn’t anything anyone has done wrong. I just don’t have enough energy right now for everything. I already pre-emptively miss pub trivia, shows at the Ave, game night, dinner with friends, ArtPrize (ArtPrize! I’m not going to be able to go this year – owwww, my art-loving heart!). But I’m already pre-emptively exhausted by all that, too.

Meanwhile — I got Winston to eat three Greenies treats tonight. Small victories.

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Work Advice Sought: How to Delegate with an Disengaged Team Member

I’m currently in a position for which, within a relatively narrow scope, I have the authority to delegate. (I’m effectively a project manager.)

There are a couple people on the team who frequently come back to me with “I don’t understand what you want me to do here.” That’s fair feedback, so I make an extra effort to explain the project reqs better, outline the first steps.

 

Their response is usually “Nope, still not getting it. Can you just look it up/fill in the spreadsheet/make the corrections/create the report you’re asking for and I’ll format it? We need to take care of this as soon as possible.”

 

I can’t imagine responding to a direct request with, essentially, “Nah, too hard / too busy, do it yourself.” This is so far outside my personal frame of reference that I have no idea how to counter it.

 

Where does this response come from, and how do I outfox the shoulder-shruggers into actually doing the work I need them to do?

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One More Blog Attempt

I get a lot of mileage out of blogging, when I bother to do it. But it often turns into more of a chore than a joy. Why is that, and how do I change it? I’m open to suggestions for how to turn this around.

Right now, my best strategy is to just throw myself at it using the brute-force method. Commit to writing regularly for a week or so. Writing no matter what it interferes with (say, going to sleep at a reasonable hour, or playing that game on my phone where I sling pizzas and sushi rolls*). My hope is that just writing regularly will re-awaken the joy. Or at least let blogging sneak back into being a habit. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that I fail to keep up with my self-imposed schedule. I fail early. Then I fail often. And even when I complete a mandated blogging stint, by the end I do not feel joyful and it has not become a habit.

There have been several times in my life where I did find joy in writing regularly. Those were time periods when I had free time (or at least, unstructured time — I most certainly had more pressing things that should have been occupying both clock hours and brain estate*) and I had Big Thoughts to meditate on.

Without reservation, I can state that writing — even blogging of the daily-diary, overly personal and not terribly intellectual sort — has been a major boon. The first thing it does is help me work through the kind of ideas that take more than one shower session to truly grasp. The second thing it does is create external memories. A back-up hard drive for my thoughts and emotions. A timeline for things that I mis-remember. I can go back and re-read what I was thinking, see how long I struggled with easily resolved things. And probably laugh at myself for being ridiculous. But that, too, is a gift.

Anyway, I’m not enamored with WordPress.com. I’m too dang lazy to set up a self-hosted blog (I know it’s super easy guys, shut up). I love Tumblr, but Tumblr is the wild wild west, and I’m a little too citified to want to be out on the frontier these days. I like the layout and recommendation system on Medium, but the userbase is lacking; it’s also a little too citified for my wild-west heart. I’d love to find a platform that works as well for reading as writing, for sharing as well as creating, that has a good interconnected community, that allows you to be personal or topical without having to commit to one style. I’m still searching for the perfect place to diary-blog online. I’m not sure I’m committed enough to create my own space without a few of these crutches.

For now, this’ll do! I have some projects and minor obsessions that aren’t really a good fit for the profiles I maintain on social media. For example, I am mildly obsessed with podcasts. My friends mostly couldn’t care less. Solution: blog it! I am heavily obsessed with crazy animal facts. WHO ISN’T, right, but longform with photos is infinitely better for this discussion. I’m trying to start a business and find myself cycling from enthusiasm/inspiration to cluelessness/despair. Thought-cycles are a great thing to deal with in writing; these infinite brain loops can turn a crop circle into a corn maze, with the right pruning.

Note this, self: Stuck on things to write about?

  1. How many people did you talk to today?
  2. Did you read any interesting articles lately?
  3. How’s the business plan going?
  4. Have you seen any pictures of goats being hilarious lately?
  5. Are you confused about other people’s actions? Let’s obsess about it in minute detail.
  6. Did you share 160 words on Twitter that actually you had a lot more to say about?
  7. Did somebody say something stupid on Facebook?
  8. Did a podcast make you think of something TOTALLY RELEVANT?
  9. Do you just totally not get kids these days?
  10. What are we going to call the generation after the Millennials, anyway?
  11. Did one of your friends say something hilarious or blog something insightful?
  12. Butts.
  13. Not really, butts are over-done. Maybe farts, though.

*actual time-waster of choice, August 23, 2015, 34 years old
*see: college.

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On Tastemaking, Social Constructs, and Soda Pop

Quinn Norton: “You can actually take a globe and color it in on Coke versus Pepsi. For some reason, we can color the whole planet for brown sugar water. And I don’t think they JUST drink it because it’s sugar water – there are many forms of sugar water. But this one has this iconography, it has this sense of community, it has this sense of identity tied to it.”

Jody Avirgan: “But isn’t that how taste has always been created? I  mean, it’s a social construct. I’m sure there’s something that you like to drink, and you weren’t born a fan of that thing.”

What’s the Point by Five Thirty-Eight, “The Algorithm Behind Your Browser

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Advice for a Young Planet, Longing for a Moon

1. Fashion a moon easily at home using scraps.

Put those old proto-planetary odds and ends surrounding you to good use by coaxing them gently into a roundish shape, using steady application of gravity. This DIY approach may result in rings, a coveted sign of an authentic artisan product.

2. Capture a beautiful wandering body.

This method requires a deft touch. Once you have identified a suitable rock, tug subtlety on the heart of the moon-to-be. Be sure to take into account that the moon will also tug on yours. Steady in your orbit. Calculate your moves carefully. It may take several passes and many minor course adjustments before the moon is finally yours.

3. Trend watch: Probiotics. 

Certain atmospheric configurations promote the development of biological surface encrustations. This may sound alarming, but most biomass is harmless or even helpful! By exercising proper seasonal tilt and geological self-control, you can encourage development of beneficial populations that will provide you with many tiny, intricate satellites.

4. Embrace self-destruction. 

You’ve fallen for this new moon, big and bright and impossible to contain. Or it’s falling to you, or you’re the moon, or you’re both falling, and you’re both moons, and there’s no stopping, no thinking, no warding off what comes next. It’s a total rush. It will end in flames.

After you’ve totally destroyed each other, the warped and charred shadows of your former selves may remain strangely close. You’ll dance in perfect lock-step, reflecting sunlight out of each other’s scars forever. Assuming you survive, that is.

5. Consider doing without. 

We have only a few short billion years to orbit our star before it consumes us, explodes, goes cold. Moons! Who needs them, when the sun is so wonderful? They can throw you off your ecliptic, swing you into a spiral, leave you idling in an asteroid belt somewhere dark and alone. Learn to love your moonless nights instead of longing for that chunk of vapor and dust. Darker skies have deeper stars.

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Rise Up Singing

I’ve started singing again.

I don’t remember when I stopped singing, or why. Maybe there wasn’t a why.

Maybe there was just a loud child, whose parents had to make a specific dinner table rules prohibiting singing. Who wore out Disney cassette tapes and scratched grooves of clumsy enthusiasm into the best tracks on edutainment vinyl records.

And somehow that turned into a silent adult, whose throat shriveled up from stage fright when she tried to hum, even if there weren’t any other people around. Who bought a guitar but wouldn’t learn to play it, because the neighbors might hear. Who almost started shaking during a party game once, when the totally-lame “dare card” mandated singing two lines of a pop song.

I don’t know why I found music so mortifying for so long, or why it’s starting to come back. But it is. I catch myself singing while doing chores. Singing loud enough that the neighbors might hear me, maybe, if they happen to be really close to a window. And I mostly convince myself I don’t even care, and sing louder.

Okay, so I still roll up my windows at stoplights so pedestrians can’t overhear my serenades. But I leave those same windows down while I’m crooning and cruising the city streets. I belt it out in the shower, and hope my voice carries anonymously across the apartment pipes. I’ve tried once or twice to sing along to a song with somebody else in the room. It hasn’t worked yet – still quavery and hoarse from nerves – but I don’t feel like I have to change my name and move to Canada to avoid facing that person again.

This isn’t a story about a rock ‘n’ roll soul. I’ve done a lot of growing, in the past couple years. Without implying that it’s time to stop improving, it’s still safe to say: I like this version of me a lot. Metaphorically, there is some punk rock in a lot of things I do. A bit of glam pop. A lot of Americana. A sly nod to the blues. But this isn’t about the metaphors.

This is about somehow, slowly – without any when or why – starting to believe it really is okay to sing again.

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