Tuesday, February 27, 2007


One modern Zen author says that what we call emotion is just movement in the body that we've learned to label a certain way. For example:

Constriction of the abdomen = nervousness
Heat in the face = embarrassment
Dull ache in the chest = sadness

I had a lot of movement in my body yesterday.

It is not nice to end a beautiful weekend with a Monday. It should not be done. Monday should be a transitional day. A half day, if you will.

It is especially wrong to end a beautiful weekend with a Monday that starts with people telling you they needed something "yesterday." We all think that's a funny stereotype of the business world until someone says it to us and then, even though we know it isn't true ...

(because obviously nobody died yesterday when they didn't get it and if they really needed it yesterday, why didn't they tell me the day before yesterday???)

... rapid heartbeat + shallow breathing = panic

While we're trying to finish the work and build a time machine simultaneously, some backend processor in our brains manages to mull things over and accumulate a reservoir of righteous indignation:

Why didn't they tell me the day before yesterday?

How can we send it to customers if the guy who asked for it hasn't even reviewed the draft version?

How did I get stuck doing this in the first place?

If the other people on this project hadn't dragged ass for so long, I wouldn't be in this fucking mess!

This whole place is such a wreck. Upper managment seems to think we're magicians and completely useless at the same time. Fuck this shit!

Rapid heartbeat + shallow breathing + incomprehensible muttering + hot face + slamming of office supplies = anger

So movement, huh? Movement in the body that we call emotion.

Whaddya think?

(As these "movements" rattle your skull, it is lucky that noone nearby is there to remind you - because nobody nearby knows - that your beautiful weekend began at 1 pm on Friday when, speaking of movement, you ran off to a Barack Obama political rally.

You got your half day, bub.

Biking downtown with your husband to hear a politician who gives you hope for the future + being surrounded by +10,000 like-minded folks = contentment)

What's behind this concept that what we call emotions are really just movements in the body? The idea is that we have the ability choose which label we apply to these "movements" or, more importantly, not to label them at all.

Instead of saying, "I am angry," we can simply say "I am noticing rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, incomprehensible muttering, hot face, and slamming of office supplies."

In fact, you might be saying that to yourself right now. Or you might be saying "Ridiculous!" or "Give me a fucking break" or "An emotion is an emotion is an emotion."

(= indignation)

(see, it's fun!)

(for me, anyways)

So you label these things. And then what?

I don't know, honestly. I have nothing useful to tell you. I just had a shitty day yesterday and am trying to figure out how to avoid that sort of thing in the future or at the very least keep the shitty days to a minimum.

At the end of the day, I asked myself, "Why did I even get angry about what happened? Why did I waste so much energy on it. It is just work for chrissakes. "

But wait a minute. That's a strange set of questions, isn't it: "Why did I even get angry about it?"

It implies that I had choice in the matter.

Hrmmm ...

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

an opportunity for growth

Forgive me readers for I have sinned. It has been 10 days since my last confession.

It has also been five years since my divorce. Almost to the hour.

You spend twelve years trying to make something work. A year trying to get your head around the fact that it isn't working and never has. Six weeks in marriage counseling.

Half an hour on the phone hearing the thing you'd suspected all along. The thing that clinches it for you. "I finally found someone beautiful and exciting enough for me." In other words, you weren't it. And he'd been looking for a long time.

A week assembling the necessary paperwork.

And then it only takes five minutes in the courtroom to call it all off for good. To watch a judge flip through your divorce agreement without looking at it, while reciting a speech to you and asking questions without hearing the any of the words.

A wealth of metaphors exist to describe what happened next. Butterflies, flowers, worlds as oysters, and so on. I like to think of myself as one of these. Today, I am 600% larger and 600% happier with 600% more love in my life.

So why do the hours and days leading up to today still hurt, five years later? I don't really know. I have no regrets. I don't miss that old relationship. I can only think that it is because that day five years ago I had to accept the fact that I'd been rejected.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

eureka springs

Both opponents and proponents say that public education institutionalizes us.

In the opinion of the former, this is a very bad thing because it makes us conformists and pedants. For the latter, it simply means that we learn how to operate in a world full of institutionalized people. In fact, someone very close to me says that the only thing he actually learned in high school was how to navigate in the real world.

Apparently I gained no such advantage in my experiences in public school. If anything, my elementary and secondary educational adventures have left me with a completely warped idea of how the world should operate, as follows:

1) that you should change subjects every hour

2) that you should be provided with feedback of some sort - hopefully positive - every couple of days or, at a bare minimum, once a week.

3) that said feedback should come in the form of an easy-to-interpret alphanumeric character.

4) that you should have large swaths of time in the warmer months set aside for laying out by the pool and/or going to the mall.

5) that the beginning of each year should be marked by a dramatic alteration in your circumstances. For the better, of course.

So it was with an extra loud, very ambivalent thump of the heart that I realized the truth about the mess that is my resume ...

I have created for myself a treadmill for the institutionalized.

Numbers 2 and 4 are effectively out of my reach in the adult world - for the time being anyways - but the others are a different story:

#1 - Change subects every hour

This I cannot do. But as a technical writer, I can change them every time I move to a new product. Score!

#3 - Feedback the form of an easy-to-interpret alphanumeric character.

In the corporate world, MBOs stand for Management By Objective ... s ...? Nobody who takes them seriously will back me up on this, but they're essentially grades. Every three months, your manager assesses how well you acheived your objectives and then s/he evaluates you on a particular scale (1-5, Good/Bad/Ugly, whatever). But in the end, whatever that scale is gets converted to a percentage. In other words, a grade. I'm not kidding. You get a grade every quarter. True, it is more than six weeks and you don't get a piece of paper to take home and get signed but still ...

Typically, companies who have MBOs give you money based on how well you meet your objectives. In other words, you get extra allowance when you make a good grade.

Apparently that's not enough for me though. Which brings me to ...

#5 - Each year should be marked by a dramatic alteration in your circumstances.

And in the professional world, there's little more dramatically altering of circumstances than a new job!

Plus, you get to accumulate a kind of fancy and elaborate report card of your own design - otherwise known as a resume. You get to carry it around with you and say to people, "Look. Look. Look what I did." Each new job - that you didn't get fired from - is like another A on your report card.

Or I should say "my report card" since I'm the one who is trying to recreate high school in my professional life.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I'm getting back into the swing of things. I think.

I'd trying to write this post for awhile now but I'd been simultaneously trying to be clever and we all know what happens when a person tries to be clever. They get their heads chopped off.

Ha ha just kidding.

See this is me not being clever.




Maybe not.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Sometimes the universe really does hork up a blessing at us.

Although finding said blessing sometimes requires smearing away the surrounding loogie, I recommend it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I know this sounds like I'm just rehashing old material but I had a point to make. I just can't remember what it is ...

Monday, February 05, 2007

slapped silly

They say:

Everything happens for a reason.


The universe is designed with your happiness in mind.

Or (even better)

The whole world is conspiring to shower you with blessings.

(And I don't mean this guy when I say "They."


Him. Not you.)

The Zens say the same thing a little differently. It doesn't sound so nice the way they say it:

Desire causes suffering. If you can accept what is, you stop desire and so you stop suffering.

These are all fancy ways of saying:

Tough nuts, dudes. You're stuck. Make the best of it.

Most of those don't sound like "tough nuts, dude" do they? They make it sound like the world is one big flower bed and everybody's getting jabbed at by fairies with Sparklers: "Ta da! All your dreams will come true."

As we all know, however, all your dreams don't come true. Shitty stuff happens all the time. And yet these fools persist in saying things like "The universe is designed with your happiness in mind."

You could try slapping them silly but they'd just grin and think about how that's part of the universe's design for their happiness. You can't win with these people. Amazingly, the large majority of them are adults who have already been slapped silly by Life long before you got a hold of them.

So what to do with 'em?

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em?

Maybe ...

We can all spend an awful lot of time getting angry about something that's gone wrong - kicking and punching things (and people), thrashing in bed or at a bar - but no matter how many toes or knuckles we break, no matter how knotted our bedsheets become, no matter how many bouncers we spit on, we're never gonna make a dent in that thing we're angry about.

(Unless we're angry about how well-formed our appendages are. Or how dry Moose's shirt is.)

But if you can just say, "Shit." or "Shit shit shit. Fuck. FUCK. Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK." and then get on with your life and make the best of it, your toes and knuckles remain intact, you don't have to pay any oversized man's dry cleaning bill, and you can actually sleep in your bed at night.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Little. Known.

I'm trying to write something and it gets lumpy before I can finish. I'm not giving up but to tide you over in the meantime, I'm stealing an idea from Nicebelt's friend Little Marvel Stove.

Five little known facts about yours truly:

1) When my eighth grade class went to DC for a class trip, the teachers asked me to be one of four students who laid a wreath on the Unknown Soldier's Grave. This still counts among the proudest moments of my life.

2) In my early twenties, I briefly considered a career in the military. Shortly thereafter (ie within 30 seconds), I also considered joining the police force.

3) I love Third Eye Blind although I don't own any of their records.

4) This is hard. I talk about myself too much to think of enough little known facts.

Oh shit! That's not little known.

5) If I were middle-school aged today, I might end up getting charged with "threatening an act of terrorism." I was so miserable most of the time that I sometimes wrote stories about blowing up the school and chuckling as I sifted through the debris for signs of my enemies' demise.