12 tagged with #navelgazing

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I blink and the hour flashes by. I see my father, stuffing old photographs into a box, in preparation for what he intends as his last move across an ocean. "Photographs are memories," he defends. "Those are the only important things to save."

Writing is an act of desperation, of dragging things out of my brain and sealing them onto some externally visible substrate. It is an act borne of fear, the anxiety of watching the minutes and days change over outside of human control. There is no stopping the tide that pulls your carefully sculpted sandcastle to sea; there is no holding the sides of your snow fort together during a midweek rainstorm.

Annually, folks ask each other for their goals and resolutions for the new year; it is curiosity, mutual accountability, idea-stealing, and maybe just idly filling the space with another human's desires so your own space seems less lonely. This, too, is an act borne of fear. This is us huddled together around a fire as the sunlight fades, wondering what dangers might reach us during the vulnerable period of sleep. We check in with other friendly souls to see who is still standing with us. The only way to survive is to cluster in groups.

I flip backwards through pages and pages of notes, filled with words torn out of my head. Does giving them form make them real? Does capturing them dispel their power? Does removing them free that space for others?

What am I so afraid of? What can any of us be so afraid of?

Fear is an emotional response to the perception of danger. High levels of uncertainty and confusion can present the appearance of danger. Just because you experience fear, does not mean you cannot continue forward.

This has been a good year for lessons.

31 December 2020 13:57


look, i tell myself. sometimes, you oughta just trust your body a tiny bit more.

i'm piloting this vessel through space and time, and i'm coming through a long period of not believing that it's working. but still, every day i wake up and breathe and eat and move and go and then go back to sleep, so, clearly, something is working.

it's pouring rain out, so loudly i can't hear myself type because i have all the windows open. i left the bonsai on the roof because i'm teaching it to be an outdoors plant; it reaches upwards to the full-grown, mature black locust in the yard, and i entertain the thought that they're communicating. but on stormy days, i wonder if it's a bad idea to leave this tiny tree whose fresh leaves are only just budding, stems that are tinier than the fingertip-sized raindrops slamming into the tarpaper around it, and i wonder if i've made a mistake.

i'm always wondering if i've made a mistake. but i keep telling myself, either all of this was a mistake, or none of it is a mistake. which interpretation makes it possible for me to survive?

cleaning the pocket studio feels like a losing battle. i have too many projects open right now, i say in an excuse to myself. but then i say, that's bullshit, i only really have one project that just happens to need all this space. but then i say, that's bullshit, because i can look at this to-do list that's nineteen items long and growing faster than i can cross things off.

next week. next week, i shove some collection of these objects into containers that i will strap to my motorcycle and hurl myself into the woods, across the plains, at the mountains. next week, i tell myself, after a week away from this, i will be able to move again.

i'm always saying that. i always come back to this. nothing changes. everything changes. either nothing's changing or everything's changing.

we are never truly standing still when we are hurtling through space in circles.

the rain's stopping already.

23 May 2019 22:01


i worry that i get myopic. i thumb through dozens, hundreds, thousands of photographs that are evidence of a life i have lived, and worry about the spaces in between that i have forgotten because i chose not to excise a slice of it to fix in a flat, static object.

sometimes, the photographs dilute the experience. sometimes, they dilute the memory. sometimes, they dilute the sense of being.

but then i think about all of the unphotographed and wonder, how much more has been lost?


i sat on the concrete curb, a small ledge delineating sidewalk from front lawn of the special needs school. the road glowed a silvery overcast sunset tone, and i stared into the dark spaces of densely leafed trees covering lawns and wrought-iron fences on the other side. one of my hands held my phone, flicking a thumb idly while waiting for things to appear in my game.

a man walked up the sidewalk towards me, thick shoes splaying out to exaggerate his uneven stride. his hair was wild, and cigarette smoke trailed behind him. he did not make eye contact with me as he passed, and i found myself stuck between giving him the courtesy of privacy by not taking in his every movement with my gaze, or ignoring him completely by being too engrossed in my phone to acknowledge another human.

the grit of the concrete made my clothes seem conspicuously thin.

24 September 2018 21:32


machines are simple. they take energy and convert it to a specific set of movements. when a machine doesn't work well, trace the parts that are not moving until you find a stiff area, then clean it and adjust it until everything is balanced.

i think about the machines i've given up on, sometimes. a car with a blown transmission, traded to a mechanic in northeast ohio for a wad of cash that bought me a consolation dinner and a few weeks of groceries; a bicycle that bit everyone who tried to handle it, which i made even worse by lowering the fork with a replacement for one that bent in a crash; a motorcycle i took apart and reassembled over and over again and couldn't manage to get a good enough seal in the engine block, so i sold it to a teenager and a parent pair who wanted to learn about machines together.

but sometimes i can extract a brushless motor from a typewriter that an office gave up on because it wouldn't turn on, spray down the shaft with acetone, reoil, and put it all back together and have it hum away.

not everything is this straightforward. i try to simplify other problems, sometimes, and the details i inevitably throw out are the ones that make us human, not machines.

16 April 2018 21:24


it's a restless urge in me, this time of year, every year. i noticed once that a drive to clean, purge, excise, and generally tie off loose ends always hits me between january and february. it's a thing that is signaled by the coming of a new year, often; my mother doesn't understand why i seem to take some chinese traditions as strongly as i do.

i don't have any conscious memories of being taught these habits, but maybe they were impressed on me. maybe it's just a stirring that reaches me when we're partway through the winter, when the other end of year/end of semester/holiday crush settles down, and i realize i was putting off sorting my mail, organizing my finances, restocking the larder.

this year, i made a pass at several boxes i've been dragging around through three, four, five moves; a shoebox full of art supplies, a banker's box full of notebooks, a beer case full of clothes i'll never wear again. i asked an old friend if she wanted to help me use up something i hoarded from our adolescence. i pulled blank sheets from the ends of unfinished notebooks to rebind into fresh notebooks. i threw out dried markers.

and then, in what i thought was an unrelated effort, i started combing through my collected email across the past decade of account updates, freelance, friends lost and gained, travel notes, coursework, rejections, windfalls. how much do i really need to save? what do i lose by refusing to move any of it? i have always kept my inbox as close to empty as possible, but i know that there are phrases i can search for that will instantly give me years' worth of personal history in one glance. do i want that? do i need that?

last year, i realized there was no reason for me to keep a three-inch thick stack of utility bills from several houses prior. it costs physical space to store it, physical energy to move it; it was easy to justify feeding that to the shredder.

i crushed several dozen old CDs of backups onto one microSD card, tucked into an empty film canister that i can sink into my safety deposit box. my safety deposit box is a physical storage location in an institution that is unlikely to go away, but i am unhappy at its monolithic existence and often unsavory business practices. i pay them for the service of holding documents that are incredibly difficult to replace. sure, i want that.

i would feel a very small pang of sadness if everything i owned was destroyed in a sudden disaster. i would not mourn for too long.

the year of the dog is coming. i like dogs.

10 February 2018 21:11

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