Another year

In a completely predictable turn of events, I’m about to go on another amazing vacation – and again I’m melancholy. Okay, also hormonal.

Truth be told, I accidentally stumbled back onto this page after googling myself. According to the internet, this is still one of the more interesting things I’ve ever done. Fair enough. Oddly, I still like reading my own writing, though I sometimes skip paragraphs.

The time seems to be approaching, slowly but surely, when I’ll need to make more actual decisions about what I want to do with aspects of my life. The main one is whether I should find a new job – the problem with the current one is (a) that I really do need to eventually stop working from home, and (b) that I’m not learning very much at all. I think I need to be around other people more to be more engaged, and ultimately it’ll have a net positive effect on my life, career, and finances to switch. The problem is that I’d be giving up a fuckton of money, since right now I’m grandfathered in to a very generous options package from my employer. Let’s say, although this may not be completely accurate, that every month I put this decision off I’m $5K richer (in expectancy, since this is largely stock). That’s 2 months’ worth of living expenses, if I’m thrifty. Problem is, right now I’m busy/tired enough that I just don’t have time to explore any other possibilities – even just to investigate whether my estimates are true. First world problems, I know, but for a first generation immigrant with no financial support besides my own earning power, problems nonetheless.

SF Blues

Jessie’s recovery is progressing slowly. Mostly, she is nauseous from the narcotics. The doctor had her take a pill every two hours, which was really brutal. Today I called and had them adjust that to where she can maybe get some decent sleep – perhaps tomorrow will be better.

I’m not completely sure I’m doing a good job helping Jessie recover. I refill her ice bag and help her eat a bit when she can, even though I know it’s tough for her. I try not to leave her alone in the house for too long, although tomorrow I’m leaving and then she’ll have to find a way to deal. I hope she’ll be more mobile by then. 

I may be getting slightly cabin-feverish. I want to go for a run, see the sun for a bit. (I also don’t want to go, because my leg’s kind of messed up and also I know I’d put on weight – and I fear the reckoning.)  Yesterday my doctor called me to tell me the results of my latest physical, and apparently my vitamin D levels are low. This, despite living in LA, playing lots of sports outside, and taking a multivitamin. I have to take 2000 IU of D3 every day now, which means for the first time in years I’m medically bound to a pill (the multivitamin doesn’t count, since I put myself on it, largely out of boredom and because it’s gummy and so is basically guilt-free dessert). 

To go run, I should probably tell Jessie, which may mean waking her up, since I can’t well silently leave her alone in the house. I’m waiting another few minutes to see if one of the roommates comes back.

I may be falling sick myself (I feel feverish), but I don’t have anyone to complain to. This is why I’m writing into the ether right now (no one actually reads this blog, as far as I know). I have this pet theory that the reason the stuff on Facebook is largely such mundane cruft is that people post things that are so inconsequential that they don’t want to tell a friend for fear of boring and confusing them (“why did you think I’d want to know this about you?”) – and so they release it into the FB ether where, ironically, ALL their friends see it, as do a bunch of random middle school classmates. I refuse to cruft up FB – which is why I never post – so I do this instead.

Communal worship

19 August 2013. My mother would have turned 63 today.

My mother died of cancer fourteen years ago. I make up a new ritual for my mother’s birthday every year. Last year I ran something like 4-6 miles in 100+ degree heat in the San Gabriel mountains. The year before that I don’t remember. Five years ago I used this date to break up with a guy I’d dated for four and a half years.

Today I’m sitting on my friend Andrew’s couch in San Francisco, waiting for my friend Jessie to get out of surgery for a “category 5” shoulder dislocation she suffered from a bicycle accident. It’s a fairly major procedure and Jessie will be on very strong drugs for at least a few days. She’s also probably my closest friend, and so I flew in to SF this morning to spend the next four days with her.

Thirty minutes ago, when I called the hospital, they’d just begun cutting.

Word has spread that I’m Jessie’s point of contact for the procedure and so her friends are checking with me. I have vague ideas of messages I’ll need to send, etc once she’s done. Her/our friends are naturally worried, and this is also my problem now.

I’m supposed to be working, but I’m not. Instead I just re-read DFW’s “This Is Water” commencement speech, and the new one about kindness that George Saunders gave.

Every time I read the Water speech, I get something completely different out of it. Today, the following paragraph stood out:

Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship – be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles – is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already – it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. Worship power – you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart – you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

In that the-universe-is-connected way it related back to something I’d been thinking about for the past week. The Italian-Buddhist-Let’s Change America CEO of my firm has been sending out a lot of articles about greater meaning, and giving to the community. He’s been holding weekly Q/A’s that tend to frequently come to these topics. Some people seem to be really into it and some feel alienated. I was kind of in the middle, veering slightly toward the alienated side, because I didn’t agree with many of his opinions. But then it occurred to me that the different flavors of our beliefs are not the important thing here – what’s remarkable is the CEO’s core belief that we should be having these conversations at all.

It’s almost as though he is offering up the company as a place of worship to the staff, in the DFW sense. We even have weekly sermons, although like a true parishioner I don’t go all that often.

But DFW’s argument that having a communal place of worship is a very valuable thing does resonate with me. My company is probably not the right church for me – I’d like a bit more diversity in the congregation, for starters. But I do appreciate my CEO providing this option. And maybe, once all my travels end and I’m back in LA, I’ll try to hit up a house of worship or zen center or something and have some life discussions with strangers.

For now, waiting next to the phone for the hospital to call is keeping me busy enough.

Friday Afternoon Thoughts

There are two ways to be very open. The first one comes from faith:  you believe that the people around you, especially those you know and meet, are good, and therefore you wholeheartedly open up to them. The second is actually very cynical. You trust no one, you see, and so  you tell the truth on any topic and answer any question because it makes you invulnerable, as there are no secrets to discover, and whatever damage can be done is done. It’s a very strong defense mechanism.

Kant argued that it is immoral to lie but under some circumstances half-truths may be admitted. The famous example is the story of a man who seeks asylum in your house, but then his would-be assassin knocks on your door, and asks if you know where his target is. Do you lie to the assassin, do you come up with true statements that nonetheless convey the impression that you haven’t seen his target, or do you tell the full truth?

So with openness, if you go the second route. You decide that it’s best to just always answer honestly, but still, you’re human, and you have pain points that are private, and so you hope some questions are never asked. If they are asked, directly, you keep your word to yourself and answer honestly, and it feels like a relief. But if the pain point is invoked obliquely (like – why did you do X?) the temptation to answer with a half-truth becomes overwhelming.

It sounds obvious that the first way of being ‘open’ is the healthier, ‘truer’ one. The second one is often dangerous to you (because of the potential of telling these half-truths) and anyway it makes you very responsive, as you don’t control the timing of the important revelations about yourself, waiting, instead, to be asked. If you’re really honest with yourself, you might counteract some of the latter by going on proactive honesty rampages where you periodically spew some information about yourself without anyone ever asking. But I digress.

But I believe the second approach is a valid, though long, road to realizing what seems to me to be the ultimate truth of the thing: being open towards the people you care about (which may be everyone) is neither caused by being honest with them, nor prevented by being untruthful, strictly speaking. I do believe that the more you are open someone the less sense it’ll make to lie to them, but that’s all it is. Openness is about a much deeper trust, of which verbal communication is a very small part. Rather you have to say – “I trust you so deeply that I believe that no matter what I say / write / do to you now, we will ultimately understand each other, and in the end everything will be all right.”

Last day in Milwaukee

I was emailing with my new friend Karan the other day and he asked me why I was in Milwaukee for two weeks. I explained about my dear friend Sheila and her husband (and now also dear friend) Jon – and how they live in Milwaukee because they decided to start a family, and how they have a much-beloved 15 month old son who happens to be my godson. Sheila and I have been friends since high school, and since graduation we haven’t lived within 1000 miles of each other. But we are still close. Ironically enough, her pregnancy brought us closer together – I was worried about losing my friend so I made a point of seeing her a bunch during those nine months. And now that the baby’s here, and I was named godmother – I see them as much as I can, which is looking like 1-2 two-week trips a year. 

It just so happens that the people I love are scattered across the globe – LA, San Francisco, Midwest, England, Russia. If I worked a normal job, I’d be limited to a few weeks of vacation a year, and I couldn’t even see them all on an annual basis – much less for longer than a few days. As it happens, I work remotely – and so I have the privilege of taking extended 1-2 week trips to see my friends and family. Instead of showing up for a few days and leaving just as I get acclimated, I get to (in Jon’s words) share life for a while. And so I spent two weeks in Milwaukee – my third long trip to see Sheila and Jon since the baby. 

Karan used the word “retreat” to describe my trip and I think this is very apt. For two weeks I got to leave my awesome but cluttered California life behind and chill in suburban Milwaukee – where I know all of two people, don’t have my own car, and live off my carry-on suitcase and two laptops. Because there’s not much to do here, I was productive – getting all my work done, working out almost every day, cooking for the family, and getting ahead in the two Coursera classes I’m taking. I had very little downtime every day, but I have energy and desire to do more. I want to bake bread when I get home.

It feels funny to leave. Sheila and Jon feel like family, and I love the comfort of living around them. Even doing solitary things like programming feels more comfortable when someone I’m close to is working in the same room. I love cooking for multiple people. I could stay longer and find much happiness in staying, although I also miss LA, and my friends, and apartment, and car. I have things I want to do when I get there.

So far my life in LA – though full of people I genuinely like and am starting to love – is missing a feeling of permanence. I’ve never spent more than about twenty days in a row there since I moved. While I have some semblance of routines there, my attendance is 50% at best. I’m not attached.

I know at some point I’ll need to form attachments again. Perhaps I can keep my remote job for a while, but I know my travel is slowing my career. More importantly, I think at some point I will need to commit to my LA friends and be around for them. And I might even start dating again, or have a family of my own. I do, deeply, want one. And when any and all of this happens, I won’t be able to travel so much, and I’ll have some very hard choices to make. I fear that day, but I’m glad the choice will be difficult. I guess making hard tradeoffs make me feel like my life has much to value – and so I feel more connection to the universe. 

Until then… WHEEEE!

The irony of seduction

This is super-unedited – I really want to turn some of this into an essay for the Hypocrite Reader.

 

I am not sure what other people look for from sexual and romantic encounters. Personally, no matter how casual the encounter, I always look for a genuine connection, however brief. I look for that euphoric moment where I can be myself and I can let my inhibitions go, be (physically or emotionally) naked, be myself, be fully accepted. I want to love and be loved.

But look at what I have to do to get there! If I want to attract sexual attention I have the best shot if I wrap my body in (generally uncomfortable) clothing, wear uncomfortable shoes that deform my feet,  and slather paint over my face. There is so much irony in that, and it’s totally unclear to me how the paint facilitates the progression to no-paint. But it does! I think.

Chris once told me that he is sad that I wear “sexy” clothing out every day then come home and change into my wuss pants and then he doesn’t find me sexy. This created a huge internal conflict for me because I wanted precisely to be accepted regardless of what I’m wearing or how I look.

I once realized that it’s easier to approach attractive, popular people than nerds. My explanation was that the former are that way because they’re practiced at socialization and invite it, whereas the nerds – no matter how much they want to be approached – don’t know how to receive it and are therefore unapproachable. Now I think there may be an alternate explanation: the nerds are already their unadorned selves – and they don’t need anything from you. They’re free.

Isn’t this what we do? Don’t we decorate, enhance, conceal ourselves all for the privilege of maybe, someday, not having to do that in front of someone? I don’t know if it’s possible, long-term.

Procrastinatrixxxxx

It’s 11 PM. Tomorrow at 8:45 AM I have to be at the downtown San Francisco Hilton, where at 3:35 I will deliver 10 minutes of a talk about using analytics to drive savings for doctor office visits. Not only is it my first conference talk, but it’s my first time attending a conference. I’d like to say I’m nervous, but I don’t feel it. Perhaps I’m so nervous I don’t even know I’m nervous. We’ll see if I sleep tonight.

I should be practicing right now, but instead I’m procrastinating. I’ve been procrastinating for days. Fortunately I’ve done a few rehearsals with my two teammates who are also presenting tomorrow, and so my part is not *entirely* unpolished. But I know if I just do it several more times it’ll be a whole hell of a lot better. Sigh.

I think this reflects on a problem I generally have come across in myself: I am often inpatient – with myself, with others, with circumstances. The truth here is, I’m not super happy with how my talk is, and so it’s painful to practice it (especially under such high pressure) and I’m not willing to practice until it gets better. And so, here I am, not practicing at all. It’s OK. Tomorrow it’ll be over, one way or another. 

If I ever do end up getting psychological/psychiatric help, this whole patience thing is probably what I will want to focus on. 

I want to write

I want to write. I want to write all of my friends. I want to write people I don’t know that well, or at all. I want to find words for what I’m going through right now in my life and I want to try words out, experiment on people to see what makes sense, what connects. I want someone to read what I’m writing.

This blog isn’t quite doing it for me. When I write my friends I can hear my voice talking to them (or perhaps at them). Here, I feel like I’m talking into an abyss. Sometimes this is good – I think of late I’ve been putting things here I don’t want to send a friend directly, because it feels too self-centered or too whiny or just plain not that good. I think the quality of this blog has not been that high lately – normally I try to feel and think and write, but of late I’ve been skipping the middle step, so it comes out too – well – boring for others to read. Exposing feelings is all well and good, but ideally I have to think about how I communicate rather than just blasting all my feelings unsorted and unedited into cyberspace.

I haven’t told most of my friends about this blog. I am not sure if the ones I did mention it to even read it, and I’m not sure whether I’m happy or sad about that. I think if I was more proud of the quality of the writing I’d want to circulate it more – but – I’m not. If I did ask my friends to read this right now, it would be as a favor to me.

I guess maybe I’ve lost the faith. I think at this moment, deep down, I don’t believe anyone cares about me enough to want to read this. Partially this could be because I don’t care about anyone enough to do something similar. I’m too full of myself right now. Not my pain, exactly (I don’t feel much pain) – it’s just that my thoughts and feelings have overflown my physical capacity to express or process them (I am too tired, too frail, too overcommitted) and so there is a backlog of things I have to feel/think about and it’s weighing down on me. And so I want to write, speak, connect – because I believe connecting with people I trust will restore me and allow me to push through what I need to do – but I can’t, really, right now. And so I whine into the void.

First Kiss

I just had an extraordinary shitty day. First the melatonin pill I took last night didn’t wear off until noon, so I could barely keep awake for a few hours at work, leaving me even further behind. Then at lunch the restaurant fucked up my order, made me wait, then took away my food while I was still eating it. Then I found out that I will not have a bed of my own to sleep in until possibly late October  – I will be on a fucking sleeping pad for up to a month. (This is actually awful. I haven’t gotten anything resembling proper sleep in about a month and a half, and I now it’ll be as long again.) Then a sales person at my work I didn’t know tried to put pink fluorescent paint on my face in the name of “company bonding” (I ran away). Then the muni was failing at getting me home so I had to walk two miles of it with my computer.

Nevermind. I don’t want to write about that, or anything heavy. I will write about my first kiss.

It was back in high school, I think in tenth grade. The boy’s name was David Rothfuss. He was in my class in high school and he wasn’t very attractive, but he was very nice. His father was a lutheran pastor, and I think in the end David went into the clergy as well – I lost touch with him some number of years ago. In fact, I don’t even know whether he’s still alive. But. In high school, we were close. We were friends all though freshman year (when I was new). We kind of liked each other, but there was a snag when David took one of my close friends to prom (in my HS, freshmen went to prom – it was that small) and then they started dating. Then they broke up, David and I corresponded over the summer, and came back for sophomore year with the tacit assumption that we’d probably start dating at some point.

Then a bit later, I had a terrible day at school. I have no recollection of what happened, but I remember walking around the halls for hours, really upset. David followed me around and comforted me. Then at some point, in the junior hallway, he asked me if he could kiss me. I did what I thought I was supposed to do, somehow – I said no.

My memory is blank here but I think we had a couple of extremely awkward phone conversations and somehow we decided the thing to do was for him to come over that Saturday at 6 in the morning. I have no idea why six in the morning, but I remember when he came I was really sleepy. He came and he sat in my papasan chair, and we both just said nothing for at least an hour. It was really intense. Then he got up and reached out his hand to me and I took it and we hugged. Then he asked “now may I kiss you?” and I nodded and we kissed.

I remember I found the kiss to be a relief, but physically unpleasant. Of course, we started dating and I think dated for most of that year. I don’t remember who the second boy I kissed is.