“Is he still mad at you for crashing his Thanksgiving party?”

love listening

I’m having a productive day.  My weekly chores are nearly complete, pending a laundry load in the dryer.  I finished reading, Becoming, by Michelle Obama recently.  Reading it was like spending time getting to know her.  She was candid, personable, and unapologetically human.  I love her and am grateful to know her on her terms.  It’s an ideal manner of connection, in my belief.  She’s instilled a deep sense of hope within me.

I’m presently devoted to four weekly podcasts.  (Gettin’ Grown, The Friend Zone, The Read, and Jade and XD.)   The people who create them are part of a tightknit group of friends, which adds to my listening pleasure.  I was listening to Jade and X.D.’s latest episode (with my headphones) while working a jigsaw puzzle last night.  At one point, I burst out laughing, startling Amelia Bedelia, Talulah, and M.  I noticed their reaction in my peripheral vision and turned to see their alarm.

Amelia Bedelia quickly exited the room, fleeing to her safe place atop her climbing tower.  Talulah barked once as if scolding me for making her jump.  M, who was playing a video game, played it off and asked me what was so funny.  All I could do was laugh even harder.  I paused the podcast and got up to attend to Amelia Bedelia, but couldn’t stop giggling.  I’m typically fairly silent, but it occurred to me these favorite podcasts are practically the only exception.  (I usually listen when alone.)

jumping for joy

While the podcasts cover different topics, they’re all often hilarious.  M decided he’s going to play them while he runs.  Jade recommended the show, The Good Place, which is currently on Netflix.  I binged two seasons of it last weekend, and highly recommend it.  I rarely watch anything other than nature documentaries, but I love this show.  It’s hysterically funny but also provokes a lot of thought.  Kristen Bell shines brightly in the lead role.  I can’t wait to view season 3.

I started a new novel, titled, 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami.  The story enthralls me so much; I don’t want to do anything but continue reading.  It’s my first book by this author, but won’t be my last.  It includes topics that usually trigger me, but it’s not the case here.  (I’ll ponder why when I finish as this intrigues me.)  In the back of my mind, I’m quietly and excitedly anticipating the upcoming Fleetwood Mac concert.  Each time I think of it, I smile.

Rhiannon still plays in my mind like a lullaby before I go to sleep.  I have three versions in my heart, now:  the original release, the more recent adaptation, and the live video footage from the ’70s — only the original functions as a lullaby.  The live versions are far edgier and provoke mental images of Stevie Nicks in her element.  It still amazes me how this song has been part of the soundtrack of my life since I was a small child, growing in significance as I mature.

I hope those who celebrate had delicious holiday meals.  I’m off to continue reading.  ✌🏽💜

“Bozo the Clown. That’s who Bozo is.”

 

It’s dreary and raining, today.  Thank goodness for the Gettin’ Grown podcast with Jade and Keia.  While I listened, I played around with my first stop-motion video.  The sound is courtesy of a protest in NYC.  It was fun and surprisingly easy to create.  (The mini-figure of 45 is from minifigures.com.)  I recently finished reading a memoir titled, Educated, by Tara Whelan.  It’s about a woman who grew up in Idaho.

It details events she endured as a child of a mentally ill prepper.  It’s disturbing, engrossing, and brilliantly relayed.  I learned a lot about a lifestyle utterly foreign to me.  It’s rich with insight into human behavior and fear.  It gave me a glimpse into 45’s support base, as well.  I’m less baffled by their betrayal after reading it.  They don’t know 45 looks down on them like trash, yet.  Sad!

Spoiler alert. 

I survived the horrifically graphic episode of Game of Thrones, titled, The Mountain and the Viper.  Barely.  I had to fight off an urge to hurl, and I shook for a while afterward.  I witnessed my best friends corpse after her husband bashed her head in with a hammer when I was in my late teens.  It’s weird how the TV show evoked such a powerful reaction when the real event only caused me to withdraw emotionally while still managing to protect her little sister and infant son from seeing it.

There be giants

The Watchers on the Wall, at the end of season 4, was spectacular.  I’m going to watch it again on a bigger screen.  Probably several times.  I hope HBO won every possible award for it.  Blockbuster movie level CGI on a TV show blows my mind.  I also have to admit, watching Prince Oberyn fight was thrilling.  At least the parts before he lost his mind figuratively and literally.  (He died of arrogance and rage.)

The Children of the Forest looked just as I imagined while reading.  The three-eyed crow was visually disappointing, though.  I expected him to be more tree-like and less wizard-like.  I laughed when they zoomed in on mini Gandalf the Grey.  But the tiny woman throwing fireballs at the living dead popping out of the ground was fabulous, so I can’t complain.  I probably jumped a few feet when one grabbed Jojen Reed by the ankle.  He was a favorite, so I’m sad he’s gone.

Peter Dinklage

Watching the Hound get his ass kicked by Brienne of Tarth was satisfying.  She’s awesome.  I like Podrick Payne, too.  And Arya, of course.  She’s my favorite main character.  I’m so curious about what comes next.  I haven’t watched seasons 5-7 yet, and much of the content varies from the novels.  I’m gradually combining the storylines as I go.  The only spoilers I’ve encountered betrayed the fact all the Lannister kids survive to begin season 8.  (Yay, Tyrion.)  I have a crush on Peter Dinklage (assuming he shares Tyrion’s wit.)  🤫  I’m off to watch another episode.

“I’ve had a lot of experience with semantics, so don’t try to lure me into some maze of circular logic.”

couple separating

I know I haven’t said a word about the Beyoncè show.  I’m still processing the experience.  Spoiler:  🤯🤪🤩😁😍😭😍😭🙃  I finished reading a novel for the Gettin’ Grown podcast book club last night, titled, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.  (It’s an Oprah book club edition.)  I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the story.  Marriage is a painful subject for me.  (Skirting spoilers, sorry if I tripped.)

I realized about halfway through the book how much it mirrored my (former) marriage.  How circumstances beyond our control sabotaged both our relationships.  While the sabotage differs, the effects on those involved are remarkably similar.  It allowed me to see things from another perspective, where before I didn’t have one.  The way my marriage ended was so far outside my experience and understanding it left me emotionally paralyzed.

The novel brilliantly allows the reader to exist in the minds of the main characters, getting a complete and intimate view of their perspectives.  It’s like watching a movie filmed from the eyes of the actors.  All the minute details we don’t consciously collect are just so.  I lived this story as different individuals, and I understood their feelings.  I effortlessly adopted their thought language as my own.  I was male at times, and female, others.  I gained insight into how it feels to be a black man in America today.

marital tensionI’m intrigued by the writing.  Tayari Jones is an impressive author.  The small details and phrasing that stand out and beg for memorization are like Easter Eggs in novels.  I’m so glad I read this book, and I highly recommend it.  It’s packed with useful information about how to survive when your world explodes without notice, and it’s not your fault, and there’s nothing you can do to reverse it.

Everyone knows we’re supposed to get back up when we fall.  Thank goodness for the people that show us how.  I put a lot of trust in books, music, and art.  It’s because it’s people giving us their best after a lifetime of training and practicing.  Most artists have to compete fiercely even to get noticed.  I’m sure there’s corruption involved in who gets famous, but I’m excellent at recognizing unicorns.  They catch me up when I lose faith in humanity.

Even though I still get twinges from my mom’s spirit when fangirling over famous people, I hold tight to my unicorns.  My mom had an incredible record for being right.  I had accepted this by the time I was 12, merely because it was statistically logical, and painful to ignore.  However, in this single instance, I think she was wrong less than right.

mother nurturing puppiesI don’t think it’s unreasonable to appreciate the gifts these incredible artists give for little in return.  I love my obsessive tendencies.  They’re part of who I am.  So is my need to express my delight in what others give me.  I realize most people don’t study every interview with Stevie Nicks on Youtube.  They probably don’t continually reread long epic novels and marvel over the useful information presented in such an enthralling manner.

Not everyone wept (with joy) while watching Beyoncè be so Beyoncè.  I may be the only one who grieved the loss of my little sister with Amy Lee and her beautiful songs that expressed what I felt when I couldn’t find the words.  I’m probably the only one who has to listen to ABBA Gold on repeat to participate in raids in video games, (but I usually get at least three other people to sing along and celebrate their fabulous, universally adored music with me.)

It’s probably about time, but I think I’ve finally grown beyond the need to escape epic guilt by only doing what my mom approves.  Her stings from beyond the grave no longer rule me.  Instead, they remind me how much I needed my mom for most of my life.  I realize now she was the perfect mom for me.  She’s a significant, bright part of who I am, and I’m glad.  Even though she died, she’s always with me.  So is Beyoncè, Stevie Nicks, Amy Lee, J. K. Rowling, Sheryl Crow, Oprah, and so many others who nurture my spirit through their creations.

Here’s every word my mom ever said to me about spirituality:  Don’t take the bible literally.  She raised me up but isn’t part of my spiritual data gathering.  It tickles me (now) because her words were necessary.  I just laughed hard remembering what I was like before my mom gave me this advice.  When I was eight, we got kicked out of our church.  I recall my brother swallowing the Sunday School goldfish on a dare as the reason.  My inner adult suggests there were probably several prior incidents involved in the decision.

The Great Upside-Down Philosopher by Rube Goldberg

All my biblical knowledge came from songs I learned in Sunday School.  After we stopped attending church, I went through the house and stole all the bibles I could find, then hid them under my mattress.  (No idea.)  It’s also when my friendship with Jesus may have grown a bit obsessive.  I developed my continuous internal conversation with him (and stopped talking to anyone else.)  We talked about everything like we were aliens exploring and observing earth.

Now I’m starting to get self-conscious because I’ve never told anyone about this.  🤫  I assumed everyone did it.  (I still do it, but I often doubt my Jesus is THE Jesus these days.)  I suck as an atheist or anti-theist.  The more I reject Christianity, the more time I spend wrestling over it in my mind.  I forgot what it’s like to take a shower without weeping over the horrible, awful shit people do to other people every single freaking day.  How can I hate organized religion so much while also loving the people who hold tightly to it?  What kind of never-Catholic-atheist loves the Pope?  What the entire hell?

So I keep reading and listening and watching.  I don’t call myself a Christian because I don’t understand it.  I still feel like an alien on this planet.  I’m just thankful for these invisible connections that comfort and guide me through this maze of unknowns known as life.  I’m fascinated by how our spirits can and do lift each other up from even the deepest pits of despair without our ever even crossing paths in the physical realm.  I don’t understand it, but I love it.  I’m off to band practice.  💜

“Ah. Catalog writer’s block?”

Once upon a time...

I’m living in my head in no small degree of late.  I’m not stuck, I’m in fascination overload.  I love it here.  I’m learning so much so quickly.  I feel almost like The Lawnmower Man, (before the madness.)  I understand humans more profoundly than before.  I’m giving my mind some breathing room to process my third reading of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, (ASOIAF.)  I’m on season 2 of the HBO series.  (I need to pick up the pace.) 😉

In the meantime, I’m reading the Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia E. Butler.  I haven’t read the final book, yet.  When I do, it will mean I’ve read all she published.  It occurred to me the stories I’m reading now are clarifying and expanding the wisdom I’ve acquired from the other epic series I’m studying, (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and ASOIAF.)

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler’s voice reaches me easily, much to my delight.  (She’s who I’ve chosen as my ((imaginary)) writing mentor.)  I love reading books by authors whose voices require no internal translation.  John Scalzi, Stephen King, John Irving, Ernest Cline, Peter F. Hamilton, and J. K. Rowling are some favorites with this skill.  I also appreciate imagined dialects that can enhance the otherness of a world.  George R. R. Martin used neglected words to help shape his world.  Brilliant, eh?

I’m sad Octavia E. Butler died young, (58.)  I would have done whatever reasonable to meet her, otherwise.  I’m serious about her being my mentor.  When I first discovered her novels, I was initially a bit upset.  I didn’t want to read about enduring slavery.  (I avoid horror because it horrifies me.)  But the novel claimed to be science fiction, so I stuck with it.  I survived but was understandably sure Octavia E. Butler’s books weren’t for me.

Then the thinking about it began.  What I read wouldn’t leave me alone.  I realized I wasn’t ready to dismiss an author that managed to climb inside my mind and rearrange the furniture.  Despite the fact it hurt me to read about humans embracing their darkest, most vile impulses.  It scares the shit out of me to acknowledge the human capacity for evil.  I’m a human.

I can’t be a tree.  It’s outside my control.  I can only be a human pretending to be a tree.  My mind forgets and returns to human thoughts.  My perception remains that of a black woman from South Dakota.  My roots are invisible, and I barely believe in them.  It feels as silly as pretending to be a tree.  So I faced my fears and processed what the book taught me.  What I discovered astonished me and prompted my journey of reading her entire catalog.

Octavia E. Butler

I don’t have the words to define what I’m gaining from reading Octavia E. Butler’s books.  Healing comes pretty close.  I’m still grokking.  And growing, and forgiving, and understanding.  I’m a unicorn magnet.  😁  I added two more podcasts:  The Read and The Friendzone.  I love, love, love them.  Aside from catching up on ‘Thrones, and my We Bare Bears obsession, I’m over TV.  I prefer podcasts.  (Plus, I have a massive girl crush on Chrissle.)

I wrote a letter to Octavia E. Butler, yesterday.  I told her all about the story I’m creating and asked for advice on how to begin.  (I know she’s dead, I’m not sending it! 😂)  It was a long letter.  In fact, it was a short story in need of a rewrite or ten.  (!!!)  See?  She’s a fabulous mentor.  (Please imagine an emoji taking a bow.  Thank you.)  🙃

In my mind, all these epic tales are a single story with varied voices and perspectives.  They’re crucial pieces of the map I use to navigate life.  They’re teaching me how to heal from PTSD, how to cope with chronic depression and anxiety, and why humans are worthy of my love and attention.  They’re convincing me I can survive and reminding me I have reserves no matter how spent I feel.  They’re helping me forget I can’t be a tree.  I’m off to beat my drums with sticks.  ✌🏽

“If she doesn’t show up, we can’t possibly have dinner with him alone.”

people having fun

I’m on the fifth book in the series, A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin titled, A Dance with Dragons.  Unlike many others who love this series, I’m not ready for the next book.  I’m not impatiently waiting for its release.  Instead, I’m trying to catch up.  The story has many layers, many of them so blatant; they’re subtle.  I need to read the first five books a few more times.  Yay.

I thought studying literature ended when I finished university.  Especially since my field of study had few such requirements, (Computer Science.)  Now I realize it was just preparing me for a lifetime of intensive reading.  I’m presently studying several epic tales simultaneously.  They’re interrelated because they’ve become embedded in my life story.

The King Killer Chronicle, by Patrick Rothfuss, The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson, The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and of course, A Song of Ice and Fire.  (Only one of them is convincingly complete.)  I’m astonished by the depth of insight into the human condition these novels represent.

I read to gain information, and I’m most interested in people.  It’s also one of my favorite things to do when awake.  I don’t often discuss what I read because I tend to get too excited (and forget to pay attention to whether or not others are interested, ((and I’m not confident in my ability to determine said interest.))  It’s easier to avoid talking about books altogether than resist oversharing at this point.  🙃

angry intimidation

Many of the things I’m learning about human nature in these novels are disturbing.  It takes little effort to find examples in real life that substantiate the behaviors expressed in the stories.  I believe these amazing writers have a profound understanding of human nature.  We recognize ourselves and those we know in what they write.  It provides a truthful foundation for the imagined and allows us to believe, even if only for a while.

I’m coming to terms with the dark side of humanity as I read.  I’m growing emotional callouses.  Most of us are capable of choosing whether or not to harm others.  The majority of humans don’t want to hurt anyone, (and don’t.)  I call it rational behavior.  I’m learning to understand how to cope with those who harm deliberately.  President Gregor Clegane and his venomous cult make it necessary.  I’m off to continue studying.  ✌🏽