Let’s kick this Friday night off with a poll.
I’m just curious, that’s all. I hope you all find the survey results to be interesting. Personally, I’ve enjoyed having dinner in all of these various “situations” over the course of my life. As a kid, I liked eating while I worked on the computer (and by “worked,” I mean while I booted fellow game players off of games.com and toyed with HTML codes on Nickelodeon.com; have I ever mentioned that my first “dream career” ever was to become a computer programmer?). As a teenager, I briefly longed for good, ole-fashioned family meals; the kind where everyone’s seated at a circular table together. Youuuuuu know — someone says something adorable and hilarious that makes everyone else laugh, and at some point, you look up from your picture-perfect plate of carefully portioned mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy to see mother delicately modeling a quaint, yellow serving bowl in the palm of her hand and affectionately asking no one in particular if they would like some vegan butter for their rye bread.. but I quickly realized that it was a stupidly romantic idea and that everyone really just wanted to claim their seat on the couch, watch Ruben Studdard battle Gay Aiken (I say this affectionately and in good humor; please remember that I am ALSO gay) on American Idol, and then get through the “main meal” as quickly as humanly possible so that each person could start dipping into their own personal pint of Ben and Jerry’s. As an adult, I now enjoy dinner in many forms and fashions: perching on the stairs and gazing through the clouded window pane of the side porch door, absent-mindedly biting into a piece of gluten-free cinnamon raisin toast; reclining in the driver’s seat of my car and nibbling on a carob + peanut butter granola bar; sitting cross-legged on the concrete slab that’s just outside of my garage and munching on sprouted tortilla chips, with my German Shepherd curled up closely beside me, patiently waiting for handouts; or sprawled out on the bed with a plated soy cheese pizza beside me and a blog post on the screen in front of me. I’ve also attempted, on a time crunch, to consume a bowl of cereal while driving to work, and that’s why I’m a better motorcyclist than I am a car-driver. Returning to my teenage dream, I do still like the idea of eating dinner at a table, and I do just that when I have someone to eat with. My best friend/roommate, Charlie, and I take dinner together practically every night (since we’re both vegetarians who like the same food and enjoy spending time together in the evening). Here are two recent customs we’ve incorporated into our evening mealtimes whilst sitting at the tiny dinette table together:
- “It’s ‘Make-A-Joke’ Contest Time!” Big surprise; I invented this one. When “make-a-joke contest time” happens, participants must, while continuing to eat, make up a joke – their very own, a true original – and then share it with the group.. aka, the other person sitting at the table. As players, you take turns making up jokes until they begin sucking so bad that you’d both rather just eat in total silence. My personal, favorite, ORIGINAL joke went as follows: “So the living room sofa and the lamp are trying to figure out where to hang a new wall painting, right?” I began, moving lettuce around in my gigantically-sized salad bowl and stabbing my fork into the middle of a dried cranberry. Charlie nodded in understanding, motioning for me to continue. “Right — okay, so, they are arguing over the whole ordeal (“put it here”; “no, I like it better there”) when eventually, the rug – which has been quiet this whole time – says: ‘Listen, guys; I think we just need to table this.'” I stopped speaking, tears practically streaming down my face from the funniness of my own joke. Charlie laughed along politely and agreed with me that it was the best joke of the evening.
- “Solve The Riddle, Dumbass.” The title of this game/activity is unofficial because we’ve never formally created a title for it, but it emerged out of another idea that I submitted weeks back and which Charlie graciously approved. When “Solve The Riddle, Dumbass” begins, players will use Google’s search engine to seek out riddle pages/websites and will begin reading the riddles out loud to see who can answer them first. And why the hell am I sharing all of this with you? Because I ran across a riddle over the course of dinner two nights ago that touched me in a deep and profound kind of way. It’s pretty central to this evening’s blog post.
Are you ready for it?
Okay; here it is.
“Imagine you are in a dark room. How do you get out?”
You stop imagining.
The lightheartedness of the evening pretty much ended for me after reading the answer to that one. That, and I watched a video of a cute German Shepherd “protecting” a lobster on YouTube, and this simple pleasure very quickly turned into becoming the cause of an all-out sob fest when Charlie pointed out to me, mid-video, that the people laughing in the background and filming the video were probably about to boil the featured lobster for dinner. “Are you INSANE?” I answered him. “There’s no way they’d do that. What kind of person could EVER do that?!” What a devastating evening. I was very quickly brought “up to speed” with “how people do.” And you know what? To anyone out there who takes a LIVE LOBSTER and throws it into a pot of boiling water: I hope that YOU come back as lobster in the next life and that you experience the exact same fate. I fucking kid you not. I mean it with all of my motherfucking heart. Now.. THAT’S a subject for another blog post entirely.. and because it’s a subject that I feel 100,000,000% passionate about, it’s going to be a post that will, I anticipate, effectively wipe out 96.7% of my friends list. So.. for the time being, I’m really, really trying to keep my #humanswhohatehumanswhoeatandkillanimalsunnecessarilywhentherearesomanyothernonviolentandhumanefoodoptionsoutthere condition in check. Btw: Wanna watch the video and cry your eyes out, too? Here it is.
Note: The publisher of the video stated, in the video’s description, that they “were very surprised to see her (the German Shepherd) act protective over one of the lobsters (that they) had planned to eat for a lobster dinner.” Reading very deeply into the word “planned,” I’m choosing to be hopefully optimistic and to believe that, once they saw how compassionate, sweet and loving the German Shepherd was acting towards that frightened, LIVING and soon to be prematurely DEAD creature, they decided to keep it as a pet instead, or that, maybe, they chose to release it back into the wild where it could enjoy its remaining years, just as they will surely enjoy theirs without being boiled alive and eaten. #done
So — I think I need to re-insert the profound riddle now due to how off-topic we’ve gotten. I apologize. (Closes eyes, shakes head softly, clears throat.) Once again, here is the riddle.
“Imagine you are in a dark room. How do you get out?”
The answer: STOP IMAGINING.
And here’s my Q: How many situations could the startlingly simple truth of this riddle apply to in “real life”? A: ALL OF THEM.
Personally speaking, I get caught up in how I think other people are perceiving me. Constantly. And not just because of my orientation.. it’s also because of my body weight, my blemished face, my overall 14-year old appearance, my publicized lack of religion (“s/he must be so immoral”), etc etc etc. My own insecurities and fear of rejection — the concern I feel over being misinterpreted, falsely represented, generally disliked, or of having my character or reputation maligned – push my mind into a very dark place.. essentially, a dark room. Negative thoughts immediately begin to fill the crevices, the tiny cracks between the wall and the door, and then feelings of powerlessness and cowardice lock me in. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, and it’s awful. And the worst part is that it’s all imagined. Often, when I’ve opened up and admitted to someone how I feared they were perceiving me, or how I thought they thought negatively of me, they’ve dismissed my doubts and insecurities instantly. “Why on earth would I, or anyone, think that about you? Where is this even coming from?”
Think of the wasted time. The wasted energy. I have, undoubtedly, ruined what could have been perfectly good days; carelessly tossed aside cheerful moods, and missed out on meaningful experiences, interesting encounters and positive exchanges. I did that to me. No one else did. I could have chosen to be open, candid, optimistic and confident. Instead, without having any reasonable grounds for doing so, I assumed that I was being rejected, looked down on, or that I was unwanted, and so I just watched the boat that I could have boarded and discovered a whole world of new adventures on sail sadly away.
And of course, dark rooms come in many different packages.. personalized packages that have been customized JUST for you and are perfectly tailored to meet your individual needs. Packages that influence you to
- regret the past to the point of despair
- fear the future because you can’t totally control it
- worry about losing someone you love a lot
- feel scared that you’re going to end up alone because you feel inadequate, weak, and unimportant when you’re on your own..
- whatever. The terrible possibilities are endless.
Try to remember that what’s going on in the present moment is what’s actually happening. I AM sitting alone, on a couch, in a hip cafe downtown right now. I DID drink my “fun coffee” (aka mocha w/extra half-and-half) way too fast and now my heart is racing a little. I am wearing a pair of stained, gray Vans, new earbuds that I purchased from Target earlier this afternoon, and I am planning on skateboarding at dusk before heading home. Some of these things are happening right now, and some things are playing on the fictitious mind-reel of my immediate future.. but if I spend the afternoon worrying about repairing and remodeling the house next month, paying the fire dues that are due in September, wondering whether or not I need to consider pursuing my bachelor’s degree in 2017, or speculating as to whether or not social security will still be around when I’m 67, then I’m not living in the present moment.. and I’m certainly not enjoying it.
Now, very important disclaimer here: I’m all about planning and preparing for the future.. one of my life mottoes is “set yourself up for success,” and many of my friends would say that I actually plan, schedule, and “map my life out” in such precise detail that it’s a problem.. but worrying over the future? Forget about it. It’s pointless. Maybe I’ll die. Maybe I’ll live. Maybe I’ll crash on my motorcycle one evening and lose an arm or a leg! Tragic. I’m hoping that it’ll be my right arm, because I don’t practice writing/eating/drinking with it enough to be properly prepared for it to become my dominant hand. Maybe, when I’m forty three, I’ll be poorer than I am now, but perhaps I’ll be richer.. or maybe I’ll always be suspended happily in this lower-middle class arena. Maybe I’ll be single next year, or maybe I’ll be dating someone.. does it matter? Maybe I’ll gain 10 pounds this summer, or maybe I’ll continue to lose weight as I let my eating disorder control me. Maybe, one of these days, I’ll really pull the reigns in on my OCD habits, or maybe I’ll let them run rampant and dominate me.. if I let this happen, then maybe things that I don’t have to compulsively “check” right now will suddenly pop up on my radar, further complicating my life, cluttering my mind, imposing on my tight schedule and further setting my nerves on edge. Maybe I’ll find a god or a religion before I die, or maybe I’ll continue on like this, happily uncommitted to anything and anyone and content to wait, watch, and wonder. Wait for what, you ask? For death, I suppose. We’ll see what happens, or does not happen, after that. I’m honestly not worried about it. I have good intentions, and whatever reasonable, rational, kind-hearted being might be out there hypothetically knows it. I’m not afraid of anything except cockroaches.
My friend recently entered into an unexpected and absolutely blissful relationship. He texted something to the tune of this a few days ago: “I’m so happy, but I’m also so worried. I’m afraid that this person is going to end up falling for someone else or losing interest in me.”
Two shitty possibilities, I mused to myself. I thought about his predicament; being madly in love. I remembered feeling that way about someone (loving them more than life; thinking I couldn’t possibly live without them and so on), so I could relate.
“K,” I texted back, “it’s like this: if you end up staying with this person for the next forty years, and you’re spending every day for the next forty years worrying about whether or not they’re going to be there tomorrow, then you’re wasting every fucking day that you’re spending with them.” Aka: quit your worrying, cuh. Look at what you’re missing out on RIGHT NOW, that is ACTUALLY HAPPENING in your life, by toying with these senseless and unpleasant “what ifs..” by entertaining these awful unrealities.
But it’s very easy to say “quit worrying about it” — especially when you’re not the one who’s worried. I’m fairly certain that actively practicing not worrying is one of the greatest challenges ever. Me? I sometimes worry that Chipotle will go out of business someday and then I won’t know what the hell to do with myself. Lunch? What IS lunch? Glorious burritos will be a thing of the past. If/when it happens, I’ll have to hope that I’ve saved up enough vacation time to call out of work for at least a week so that I can mourn. And the mourning process will be ugly. I will spend hours scrolling through old Facebook posts on my timeline.. posts where I tagged Chipotle, using words like “delicious,” “amazing” and “tofu-licious” to describe our time together.. desperately wishing that I could go back in time to spend just one more lunch break or evening there..
But then I remember that I’ll probably die before Chipotle ever goes out of business, and that Chipotle will probably follow (or precede) humankind to Mars someday. You get what I’m saying here. It’s this:
If you’re worrying about tomorrow, you’re not really enjoying today, and it sounds cliche to say it, but today is all that you really have. That’s it. Life is a magical gift, you guys. As magical as outer space. The fact that your soul and your consciousness exist — that you can move, talk, think, create, love, and breathe — is insanely amazing. The potential in you is limitless, and the possibilities before you are endless. Live actively, feeling and seeing everything around, outside, and inside of you to the fullest degree possible. Find the light in the room and turn it on. In pursuit of it, grope along the walls, if you have to; brave your way through chilly clouds of ghosts and courageously dispel terrifying thoughts of being lost in there forever and find the freaking switch. Better yet, use your fear and your rage to tear down the walls, to punch a hole through the roof, and then proceed out into the open. Live. Your. Life. It actually occurred to me a few weeks ago, for the first time EVER, how incredibly UNNATURAL it is for us to LIVE indoors. I’m speaking literally now. Think about it.
As children, we go to school indoors.
As adults, we find work in offices, buildings, factories and the like.
And then, when we aren’t in school or at work, we come home and watch TV in living rooms, cook meals in kitchens, and sleep soundly in bedrooms.. surrounded by all of these goddamn walls ALL of the freaking time! They’re EVERYWHERE! And we wonder why everyone is taking pills for their depression. Why? Because our lives are not natural. We’re doing it wrong.
I used to spend my weekends – my off days – holed up in the house, too.. obsessively sweeping, mopping, dusting, washing, drying, and organizing for hours. Then, I’d binge-watch Gossip Girl or Fringe on Netflix. Then, I’d eat something. After that, I’d play guitar on the floor, write out an entry in my journal, or work on some kind of “creative process or project.” After a while, I’d eat something again and then fall asleep soon thereafter. The end. Now, I spend about an hour quickly “tidying” the place up on Saturday morning and then escape for the weekend, every weekend.
I like to go out for coffee on the weekends. I love riding my skateboard across the smooth concrete at Railroad Park. Without setting a timer, I explore aimlessly downtown; taking pictures, window shopping, and watching people. I go hiking with my German Shepherd at the abandoned golf course down the road. I sit in the Observatory and watch trains go by, enjoying the soothing quiet and the collective, industrial noise all at the same time. I feel alive, and free, and happy when I’m outside. By deep contrast, I feel stifled, depressed, unmotivated and lonely when I’m stuck indoors. I may not exchange even a single WORD with another soul from the time I leave the house to the time I return home (with the exception of ordering my coffee at the front counter and then thanking the barista who makes it for me).. but just being outside, surrounded by people and trees, and taking in all of the different colors, textures, buildings, scenes, sounds and machines.. all of it makes me feel alive. It makes everything better, and it’s so simple. It’s so easy to step outside, into the world, and then to feel the weight of the world slipping softly from your shoulders. Why on earth wouldn’t you?
So.. bringing it all back to the front and then breaking it down like a party in the back:
- Enjoy dinner. However the heck and in whatever form or fashion you want to.
- It isn’t the central topic of this post, but please; love and respect all animals. Not JUST the cute ones (like dogs, cats, bunny rabbits and Cecil the Lion). Just imagine that you’re a lobster the next time you’re at the grocery store and want to bring a lobster home to boil him alive. You freaking asshole.
- Enjoy your life. Don’t walk, submissively and willingly, into dark, scary, and musty old rooms, and don’t let anyone pressure you into them, either. If you know you’ve cowered and compromised in the past and you feel like you’re trapped behind a heavy, locked door right now (whether it’s one you created for yourself or something that someone designed just for you), bust that sucker down and march confidently into whatever kind of present you want to experience. My favorite band, at the moment, is Glass Animals.. and the lyrics to their song “Flip” fit in quite nicely here:
I wanna go back, I wanna go back; I’m gonna go back to a face, no more mask. I was in full bloom until I met you.. I’m gonna shake my fetters, I’m breaking loose.”
Fun fact: In middle and high school, during roll call, calling out “here” never really sounded right. It just didn’t seem to cut it. I always preferred..