If Solitude Be Mine, I Shall Embrace It

Once more I sit in front of this keyboard thinking deep thoughts when I should be thinking about how to get our heros out of the Dominican Republic safely.  Except that I’ve only had one train of thought this week and it has come from a realization- an epiphany you could say.

For many years, my friends, family, loved ones, and nosy strangers have all asked me what kind of man I’m looking for.  I’m not going to touch on the assumption that I’m looking for a man in this day and age, but I do in fact, prefer gentlemen.  Each time that question comes up, I have drawn a blank.  What the hell am I looking for?  Who am I waiting for?  There is never a very satisfactory answer that I can give.  I mumble some crap about how I really don’t have a type, because I honestly have no idea.  Until now.

I have realized what it is that I’m waiting for and I now understand why I won’t settle for just anyone.

I need a warrior to fight beside me in the darkness.  Sorry Disney, but a Prince simply won’t due- I’d probably break him anyway.  I need someone strong enough to fight my battles with me (not for me) and to let me fight their battles with them.  As much as I do appreciate the chivalric code, I simply can’t see how I could fit into that mold.  I’m not a damsel in distress, I’m not meek, so there are simply very few conceivable reasons I’d need saving from the dragon, but damned if I wouldn’t really want some back-up.

The most successful relationships I’ve had the privilege of witnessing are based upon this theory, I’ve realized.  Is this what love is meant to be?  The feelings that are supposed to be associated with it I’m still hazy on, but that sense of having someone fighting the battles with you is a necessity for me, I think.  The Warrior has seen the evil and will turn to face it.

I cannot feel like I’m being 100% open with a man if I’m too concerned that I will be dragging him down into the darkness with me.  Too many people have told me, “Love changes you,”  and this has never sat quite right with me.  Yes, you would hopefully adapt to bringing another person into your life, to integrating every aspect at some point, but I’m still a firm believer that you cannot go into a relationship with the belief that you will change the things that you do not like about someone.

You cannot change a person- they must change themselves.

As this is a pretty recent revelation, I can’t say for sure if I would do this in any given situation, but I do feel that if I could find a Warrior- broken, imperfect, and willing to fight beside me- that I would be absolutely enamored.

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Waxing Poetic From the Dark Side of the Moon

I’ve been having an interesting conversation that started with a new friend whom we shall name Flyboy for his much appreciated service to our country.

What do you do when you feel like every choice you make is doomed to twist itself into the opposite of what you are intending?  It seems like this would be a pretty easy question to answer- Make different choices, right?

It has occurred to me, and Mrs. Batty reminded me of this today, that growth is a very, very, very, very, very…. (you get the point) slow process.  I have known that I am attracted to unavailable men for most of my adult life and that is a pattern that I can’t seem to break, no matter how hard I think that I’m trying.  That’s easy- choose different men!

The problem becomes that it’s not my choice in men that I need to fix, it’s me.  It’s about what I feel that I deserve and I’m sure that subconsciously I’ve determined it’s safer to be alone and self-sabotage is the way to go!

Flyboy seems to be just coming to this understanding and I can 100% sympathize with how crappy that feels.  I wish I could explain to him without seeming like a pompous ass-hat that the simple answer is the hardest path to walk down because it is long and rocky.  Or, who knows, maybe I’m just full of shit and projecting my own thoughts about my personal journey onto someone that I feel has been following a similar path.  Either way, I think that I can truly understand his darkness and it does make me sad to know he’s still got a long way to go and it’s a pretty lonely journey.

So, Mrs. Batty- ever the optimist- did point out that, “Being open enough to the possibility that you can get hurt [by another person] and that it would be OK is a big step.”  And she is right.  The statement that she was responding to is my new found belief that I will probably end up being single and living alone (with my 3 cats) for a good part of the remainder of my life, but that I’ve come to terms with this fact and it would also be OK if that were to be my future.

I guess this realization is what people mean by being comfortable with yourself before you can be comfortable with another person.  I’m open to suggestions, but online dating is not a route that I am contemplating.  I’m done chasing men who attract me to them because as we have already established, I have an uncanny radar for entirely unavailable men.

My game plan for the next little while is to let the cosmos throw their best and their worst at me and it will either hurt or it won’t, but I promise myself to not push aside my better judgement.  Not listening to my intuition is how I’ve gotten into all of the previous messes that I call a relationship history.

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“Time May Change Me, But I Can’t Trace Time”

I searched the word changes on Bing and Google in an attempt to ignore my inability to figure out the next part of a scene that I’m writing and the top 4 hits (using 4 because Google only had that many) were amusing to me.

Bing: Definition, Parental Control, Hair Salon, and Black Sabbath

Google: Definition, Global Activism, One Direction, and Oil Changes

The 5th hit on Bing was more what I was thinking about when I chose that word- David Bowie.  I know that I’ve spent many hours of contemplation on this subject, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately and who better to illustrate this than Ziggy Stardust himself/herself/itself?

There are frequent posts on Facebook with sayings like, “If you’re not willing to change, don’t expect your life to either” or “Change is inevitable, progress is optional”.  Ok, so that second one is just one that I know, but the rest are too long to put into a post.  It’s a lost of positive affirmations about moving forward and how to inspire yourself and others.  This may say more about the people that I know than the world, though I can’t say that’s a bad thing.  I feel good thinking that I associate (even if it’s only electronically) with people who are trying to better themselves some way.

Initially I did some really deep thinking on this when I lost my job in DC and had to figure out what my next step would be.  That was in no way fun, it was ego crushing, and I don’t care what anyone says- it was not liberating.  I spent months in a funk trying to convince myself that I wasn’t a failure with the support of some incredible women.  Sorry men, I just couldn’t find an incredibly supportive guy to lean on- nothing personal 😉  Long story short- it sucked.

Out of this personal turmoil came “the idea”.  I needed to escape the reality of suckiness and determined that the one thing I can do that I have never felt like a complete failure at is write.  The novel has been a work in progress since then and has morphed and twisted into something that, even as a first draft, Mrs. Batty and I should be extremely proud of.  This past December, around my birthday also known as when I start to feel like I’ve accomplished nothing in my life every year, I became determine to finish book 1 of this story (yes, it’s morphed to a multi-book story) by December of this year.  I’ll be turning 35 and just feel as though I need to push myself to shit or get off the pot with something.  If it isn’t going to be finishing this book, then it needs to be focusing on my other career.

Back to the changes.  All of these positive affirmations and saying are actually quite nice to see, but they are really reminding me of all of the personal changes that I know that I need to make and have been putting off.  I work too much still and ignore my personal life.  I have terrible taste in men and find the single most unavailable ones to convince myself that I should take a shot at (utterly masochistic of me) in some sort of sick self-fulfilling prophecy.  My list of real life friends is slowly shrinking and I’ve not tended to finding ways to meet new people, so isolation is an issue and I still can’t figure out if it’s intentional or inadvertent.

But- I can’t help thinking that this is just temporary.  I knew what I was taking on when I set my heart to writing a novel, while working a minimum of 50 hours a week.  Both jobs are creatively draining and I also find myself doing the internal pep talk of “just do it!  stop procrastinating and just do it!” much more than I used to.

I recently sent a copy of the unfinished manuscript to someone that I’ve formed a wonderful work relationship with and she’s absolutely salivating for the finished work.  This is encouraging and now I need to figure out what changes I have to make in order to keep the forward momentum going.  My resolve is still there.  Come hell or high water- this book will be ready to send out by the end of the year, it’s just that the path to this is not so clear in my mind.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes about change:

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– Mahatma Ghandi

When The Dream is More Exciting Than the Reality

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I daydream, constantly, and I suspect that I daydream as a way of controlling the world around me.  Just a few moments ago, I was fantasizing about a conversation that I will most likely never be in the position to have with a guy that I know.  It was a very well thought out explanation about why we could never “see” each other socially and, well, let’s be real- it’s me so there will be no point in time that I would be having that conversation.  My favorite tactic is to ignore the desire until it is gone thereby NOT creating any conflict.

I’ve explored this rabbit hole before and find that it aids one of the few things that I like about my writing- the character interactions.  This actually has become a problem because I am so focused on the interactions that the necessary descriptive elements are short changed.  In real life, I’ve wondered if I have ever “remembered” having a conversation with someone that had only taken place in my head and, to date, I haven’t proven this suspicion to be warranted- I have an unfortunately long and accurate memory.  But I digress-

Relationships- If one is habitually living a relationship in their head as a way of sussing out the potential issues, is there ever any hope for becoming that person who is able to just live in the moment?  I suspect that it goes back to the control issue and trying to anticipate problems before they happen.  Now, this has served me well professionally, even if it has torpedoed many moment where I’d thought that I could be a part of a healthy relationship.  It’s a useful skill!  It’s a perpetual kill-joy because you end up becoming the “responsible” friend.

In my internal conversations with a man that I’m in a healthy relationship with, I imagine that we are boring.  You’d think that I would be picturing exotic vacations to Bali or action packed treks through the mountains while being chased by an angry group of Russian Mobsters, but no.  I picture a Sunday morning where we are sitting at a kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading our respective newspapers and magazines, while the cats play in the other room.  The traditional picture of domestic bliss that we are apparently supposed to achieve as adults according to Lifetime Movies and Television.  Now, really?  I can imagine a small segment of the population living this life, but more likely they are either awake and on the couch watching TV or running around doing the countless tasks and errands that equal real life.

I know that I’m rambling now and I’m OK with that.  I’ve never promised that this blog would contain earth shattering or life altering publications- just the spewing of my head.  That being said, is it naive of me to be making efforts to put myself “out there” more because I’ve realized that my internal life has become much too comfortable?  There’s a reason why I’ve been fine living in my head for quite a while and it really has to do with an incredibly weakened ability to deal with any more upheaval and, let’s be honest, opening yourself up to reality will only lead to upheaval and change.  It’s that change that leads to fear.  Alternately, it’s also a fear of stagnation for me.

What if I do end up finding someone that I’d like to keep around for longer than a few months- what then?  Do we get into a comfortable routine, do we have a “date night”, does it mean the end of being able to say- I will go wherever the world takes me?  Or, does it mean that you have company for the journey?  This is one of those questions that I won’t be able to answer with any authority until I allow myself to experience it I think.

Shameless Self Promotion

I’ve always found the idea of “Shameless Self Promotion” to be a bit of an oxymoron.  Why should we be ashamed of promoting ourselves and our own personal brand?  A fantastic blog article by Nathan Hangen points out, very aptly, that there is a big difference between promoting and “self-adulation”.  He is mostly referring to the difference between bragging about what you’ve done and giving people an idea or vision to follow.  I ultimately think that he’s right.

Let me refer back to my favorite example of my ambivalence toward self promotion- 30 Seconds to Mars.  As I’ve said before, love or hate the music, you cannot deny that these guys have nearly perfected the art of self-promotion and creating a vision for their extremely loyal fan-base.  Whether that is a result of the cult of personality that Jared Leto inspires or from not being terrible musicians or from being able to provide an exciting show while on tour, I don’t know.  I’ve never actually been to one of their shows 😉  The question that I keep asking is- would this be a good model for other aspiring artists, musicians, writers, etc… to follow in order to achieve some level of success?

It really doesn’t matter if your art is good or bad, but it does matter greatly if people are buzzing about you.  There are plenty of songs I would never have played unless someone else had told me about them.  Even more so, there are hundreds of books that I would never have picked up if I hadn’t read a good review of it.  With the ever flattening and globalizing world, we have less time to spend weeding and sorting through the media onslaught of stuff and there is an exponentially larger amount of product on the web for us to look at!

Everyone is advertising something these days.  I can’t seem to go 20 minutes without having my inbox full of junk mail or someone sending me a coupon of some sort for things that I have no desire to purchase.  But, this model works because for every one of us who throws it away, there is a chance that someone will be inspired to go out and buy!  The name of the game is volume and that hasn’t changed for decades- you all remember the onslaught of fliers and bulk mailers when we all still received letters from the post office.

To put this in perspective- there are over 7 billion people on this planet, most of whom have some sort of access to the internet or TV or some form of social media.  Let’s say that you are trying to sell a novel (or whatever else you’d like to sell) and it’s an e-book.  You now need to reach the millions (or more) people out there who read and who have an e-reader, so what do you do?  By the way- You also feel a need to make a bit of money on this proposition and you are not pricing your novel too high, let’s say $2.99 per download.  If you only sell 1000, then you’ve made $2990 and this doesn’t even cover the cost of self publication (even in E-Book).  You have a problem of volume and need to expand.

This is where the buzz comes in.  If people get to talking, then they will tell their friend and that friend will tell their friends, etc and so on, but the same applies whether you are good or bad.  For the sake of longevity, it would help to be good at what you do, but even 1 hit wonders made a little money on at least 1 song 😉  The same concept applies in business; a satisfied customer will tell 3 friends where an unsatisfied customer will tell 3000! (Here is the book by the same title)  It takes more money and effort to constantly bring in new customers than to retain loyal ones and this applies to artists as well as businesses.

What 30 Seconds to Mars has done is to create a cult like following by providing “Echelon” only special events and options to people who have joined the mailing list or liked their Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter.  Why is this ingenious?  Because it is 🙂  For all of the people who ignore their mailings, there is another group who are enticed by the offer to be a part of something, to feel special, and let’s face it- all customers want to be made to feel appreciated and special.  They want to feel like these larger than life guys care about them as individuals and that they understand whatever it is the listener thinks they are suffering through.  It is human nature to want to be a part of a tribe.  The other part of their success that doesn’t hurt is the fact that they are good looking men, and Jared Leto has had an eternal following of teenagers since the early 90’s.  They went into this endeavor with a bit of an ace up their sleeve, but were able to continue being successful because of the distance that they consciously put between the band and the previous Leto “Brand” associated with his acting.

From the literary side, there are quite a few successful authors who have published books under a pen name.  Most notably, Steven King and Anne Rice have both been published under multiple pseudonyms and the only explanation that I’ve ever read to explain this move is that what they were publishing had the potential to alienate their loyal readers.  The same really doesn’t apply to music, but there is always the potential for a side project to influence people happiness with the original artistic endeavor.

So, this rambling all started with me wondering if the 30 Seconds to Mars business model (I’m sure that there is another name because these guys didn’t invent this concept- I just don’t know it!) can be applied to any type of Shameless Self Promotion and I can’t see why it wouldn’t.  Social Media is free advertising, but you also need to find a way to catch people’s attention.  This is where my ambivalence comes in.  I’m not a person who is comfortable hyping myself up in any way, but to some extent, that is how you need to proceed in order to hook the customers and keep them coming back for more.  There is a fine line between promotions and bragging, but if you don’t leave the women wanting to take you home and the men dreaming about you, then you haven’t hooked them.  It’s all about selling yourself and your vision to the masses.

The Little Black Cat Collective

Just because he’s cute and the internet is obsessed with cats!

More so on the weekends, I find my mind wandering to the weird; no adult thoughts allowed 😉  I’ve been trying to put this title to a story for quite some time and I am officially throwing in the towel on it.  Some ideas are promising and fall very flat, c’est la vie!

It dawned upon me last night that even in adulthood it is possible to still feel the same way you did as a child beginning in a new school.  The butterflies, the annoyance, and the fear of starting something new and failing at least a little bit of it is terrifying.  Daunting is the best description I can think of when it comes to moving while still in K – 12th grades.  I did learn quite a few lessons from it though.

Lesson number 1- you can only be physically alone if you want to be.  I’ve heard this from people so many times over the years that it hurts my head to think about why nobody else does this and it is so simple- if you are new in town, go out and talk to people.  Yes, I guarantee you that you will be stared at like a crazy person, at least half of the time.  The rest of the time you will be ignored, ridiculed, or asked to leave, but the point is, all you need is one time of finding people with whom you can relate.  This will get the momentum going and more than likely, these are not the people with whom you will really bond, but the people who will keep you company through the longer search for true friendship.  ESPECIALLY in High School.

I can remember one move where I stayed in the house for a few weeks, maybe went to a movie, then finally got fed up with the boredom, looked my mother in the face and said, “I’m going out to make some friends now.”  And that’s exactly what I did.  I took the dog to the park and started talking to people until one of them seemed cool enough to hang out with!

Lesson number 2- Go with the crowd.  So, you’ve spent a good amount of time being shunned, unless of course you are popular and good looking (just a fact, don’t yell at me) and you have found a group of people that will take you in.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you should go against your own conscience.  You must be true to yourself, but you also need to weigh the risk and reward of telling someone what you are really thinking.  The only people who want honesty from you are people that you don’t know and those who truly love you.  Sometimes, even then, you should really have your edit button firmly set to delicate before you speak.

One fantastic and terrible thing that the internet has provided is a consequence free zone where people can say whatever they are thinking.  This can be good, but mostly it is bad.  The written word is constantly misconstrued (I am 100% guilty of being that guy) and the lack of physical que’s can allow a person to keep speaking past the point of good sense and truly hurting other unintentionally or intentionally (i.e.- cyber bullying).

Lesson number 3- People change, it’s not personal.  Alright, so you’ve drifted away from the friends that you’d made before you uprooted your life.  It happens.  They have been changing, you have been changing and, to be frank, who wants to stagnate?  If you don’t grow physically and emotionally, then you will not become the person that you want to be- where’s the excitement in that?!  You are never just one thing.  So you identify yourself as a jock, or a drama nerd, or an artist- does that mean that you don’t enjoy aspects of each?

I am a pretty boring person quite frankly.  I go to work in my neutral suits, do the grocery shopping, blog, write, and listen to music, but I enjoy theater, building things with table saws, Rugby, College Football, and if I had my way I would probably wear nothing but black.  What does that make me?

With each move, my mother would tell me, “It is a chance to re-invent yourself.”  Well, that got to be a bit tiresome by the 6th move and I really didn’t want to do it, but in that span I tried to join the choir (wasn’t too bad either), I tried to be a cheerleader (I was TERRIBLE), I joined Drama, was on a competitive swim team, and even dabbled in Role Playing Games (GREAT exercise for writers BTW), but none of the stuck.  When I got to college, I stopped trying and ended up looking like a hippie, took up scuba diving, then ran a men’s Rugby team.  I ask again- where would you categorize me?

Lesson number 4- Ignore all of the previous lessons.  The only lesson that you need to remember is the one that my Grandmother taught me when I was 5- treat others the way that you would like to be treated.  There is a caveat to this, not everyone is deserving of your time and energy, but don’t be rude.  Just flip on that internal “edit” button and walk away because, in reality, not many people honestly care what you think and you do yourself no service by making sure that they’ve heard you.  Pick your battles and know your enemy, that is also some of the best advice I’ve been given.  I’m just working on the application of it all- maybe I’ll get it by the time I’m 60 🙂

Perception is Reality

“Perception is reality and you cannot escape that fact.”  This is something that I’ve heard billions of times in the past 20 years from my mother.  At first- I resented the hell out of her for it.  She was only telling me that because she didn’t agree with my image (I wore lot’s of black) and she didn’t agree with my friends (we were dorks who wore all black and did nerdy, yet slightly ‘satanic’ things) and she thought that I had a bad attitude and, well, let’s face it- I was 15 so OF COURSE I had a bad attitude!  When I went to college, she continued to tell me this and I had already begun to soften my outward appearance and blend a bit more with the world, but my personality still deviated from the ‘normal’.  Then, after I graduated from college and was forced into the work place, I had to embrace everything I’d spent my teen years fighting and become a suit.

Don’t get me wrong, I still wear my Pentacle exactly where it has been around my neck for the past 11 years, but along with that, I have neutral tones of makeup, appropriate shades of red on my nails, and clothing from the appropriately trendy store.  You see, what I didn’t want to see was that, just like many times in every woman’s life, my mother was right.  I’m not a musician or a painter or a published author (YET!!) so when it comes to being a functional adult, it doesn’t actually matter who I am and what I feel.  I know that this sounds callous, but it is a sad truth for the vast majority of us.

This is also a statement that is more often applied to women.  In an office, in a retail outlet, in a factory, a woman is still a woman and must be careful that she does not portray herself as something OTHER than what she would like to be seen as.  If a man wears the same suit, jeans, slacks, and changes out shirts all week- nobody would notice.  If a woman did the same thing, well, let me just say that I’ve been asked to sit a few down to ask them to change their clothes more than once a week.  This request nearly made me want to slap the other woman who asked me to do it, but I also saw that I needed to help this other lady out- she didn’t understand that PERCEPTION IS REALITY.

Does every man with a nose ring and a plethora of tattoos spend his evening doing drugs and amounting to nothing?  That depends upon who you talk to, but the answer is no.  There is no generalization that generally works for this kind of assumption (eh-eh- see what I did there??), but he will be perceived as such until he can fight that perception.  Is a woman with a skinny waist and large breasts stupid?  Or, lets even flip that around, is a fat woman with low self-esteem not capable of being a successful sales person?

Let’s face it- at some point we all need help and we all need someone to take a chance on us.  Here’s an anecdote for you.  I’ve just been ‘reorganized’ for the third time in two years and unlike the first lay-off, I made it through this one with a job.  The first lay-off was entirely personal and looking back, I 100% know that I deserved it.  Did you really- you ask?  Well, of course I did, because PERCEPTION IS REALITY.  I was loud, opinionated, and tactless so regardless of what I might have had in the form of potential, I’d already isolated anyone who might have been able to help me.  It took two years to get back and now that I’m here, I was ‘reorganized’ again, but this time, it had nothing to do with me.  I had no reputation except for the positive one that I’d started with 800 miles away from where I’d been and the temperature warmed up greatly for the people that I needed to give me a job.

In contrast, I have recently met a woman who has been trying to break through the barrier from hourly employee to a management position.  She is in the same place that I was 2 years ago and there is no easy way to make this concept hit home for anyone aside from losing it all.  What do you think?

Are double standards like this fair?  Are they human?  Are they sexist?  Why do we perpetuate this type of crap when we clearly don’t want to?  Is this the kind of benign bull-twinkie that leads to white supremacists shooting up a Mosque or anyone feeling the right to pass judgement upon strangers?

Does the answer honestly matter?  PERCEPTION IS REALITY.  You can only see what is in front of your face.