Where does empathy end & guilt begin?

This morning I awoke abruptly from a dream in which I wanted to get a toy for my brother’s dog. In the dream, I entered a pet store that appeared to be the exact same pet store that’s in a town a few miles from my house, the same pet store I used to frequent when I was a kid. It’s where I got all the supplies for my first hamster and I always enjoyed looking at the birds and the fish and the dogs and cats.

But when I was that young I didn’t realize that the cats and dogs–well, really puppies and kittens–behind the glass, forced to sit and stand on jungle gym-grade chain and rubber, with nothing but water and piddle pads, had such shitty existences. I hadn’t been in that pet store for years until I went in last October, wanting to look at the fish. I think I had blocked out the kittens and puppies from my mind–the thought of seeing them never came to me until I walked inside. Near the entrance, a shaggy-haired puppy was on the floor, surrounded by a shallow gate. I bent down to pet the puppy, who was very excited, and I was quickly overcome with grief and guilt and I had to leave. I ended up going to a public restroom next door and crying.

In this dream, I entered that pet store and looked at the birds but the birds weren’t even in hanging wire cages–they were trapped in glass cages and there were far too many in each cage, and white bird shit was caked on the glass. I was sort of able to shrug that off but then I saw the puppies and kittens behind the glass and I felt distraught. I woke up and just felt overwhelmed with sadness and also anger for even having the dream in the first place–if I can’t even have unconsciousness as a space free from the soul-crushing realities of animal neglect and cruelty, where can I go?

Here’s my problem: I am an extremely empathetic person and, in general, I feel nearly everything on a very deep and profound level, particularly pain, grief, sadness, guilt, and hurt. This is especially true when it comes to animals. And, in all honesty, it’s become fucking exhausting.

I follow a few pages on Facebook that post lost pets, animals that need homes, and animal rescues. Same goes for Instagram. I want to help–I donate regularly to my local animal shelters (as well as occasionally donating to non-local rescues) and I share the posts of the lost animals and the animals in need of homes. I really want to help and ideally I would be helping in a much more tangible way. But the bombardment of these lost, sick, hurt, and lonely animals is tugging at my core more and more each day. My heart can only take so much.

So what do I do?

It would feel morally wrong to unfollow these pages. I mean, fuck, they’re only trying to help these animals and they’re in no way trying to guilt trip anyone. It’s like I somehow need to train my brain to still care but not let myself get swept up in my own guilt for not being able to do more, and to train my brain into not letting myself feel overwhelmed with sadness over situations I cannot fix.

It’s just become beyond exhausting to see these things and feel these emotions every time I see them (which is multiple times a day). It’s exhausting and a little absurd, admittedly, to cry when I watch videos of animals. I do love those parts of myself–the loving, empathetic, kind, nurturing, I-only-want-to-help, parts of myself–but it’s clear that I also need to work on creating a stronger, more resilient part of myself to save me from the inner madness.

If any of you reading this feel similarly or deal with similar situations, I would love to know your thoughts.

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Certified Classified.

I’m currently at “my” desk at work–well, I use quotes because it’s not my desk. I don’t have a desk yet. But it’s the one I’ve been assigned as of last week. I’m not gonna lie, I spent the majority of this day on Wikipedia, hell, I’ll say it: I even looked at pages of hippo GIFs on reddit. It’s been 12, 8 hour days of reading, taking notes, “training” exercises, slideshows, videos, etcetera, etcetera, and I just can’t do it today, man.

It doesn’t help that I am left entirely up to my own devices so any questions or confusions I have about the material–and I have a few today–kind of just have to be left unanswered until the next time I see my supervisor…whenever that is. With this training being so drawn out I’m actually more anxious about truly beginning my role here than I was when I first got hired. It’s like a prolonged torture before an execution. Just get the axe and get it over with.

It’s very isolating here, with the cubicles and the mostly-silent office, that silence only to be interrupted by low voices and the clacking of keys. I don’t see people interact much with one another; a total of 5 people have spoken to me over the past two weeks. I’m not used to it. I’m used to utilizing my vocal chords almost every minute of a workday.

I don’t even think I would’ve ever been asked to get coffee with this one coworker (the one with the strangely arousing voice) if we hadn’t matched on tinder.

I know it’ll get better here. But right now I don’t even feel like I work here. I feel like an extraterrestrial; an impostor. But no, I have all of my own logins and passwords and a badge to get through the doors and a legal pad full of notes.

Oh and of course a blue Bic that was given to me my first day. How could I forget that?

 

7-Day Blog Challenge

made just for you.

Actually, I’m making it more for me, but I really hope you give it a shot as well.

While I did find many useful tips on blogging in general during my Google search, I was looking for an actual 30-day blog challenge like the one I did a couple years back on here. Apart from the helpful tips and tricks from more experienced bloggers (with much better HTML skills), I found a lot of blog “challenges” typed out in cheesy fonts that essentially all amounted to, “Spend 30 days being as vapid and as narcissistic as possible.” Now, that is a bit exaggerated on my part but my personal search had still come up empty. I don’t have the capability to stomach all the genuinely useful information for bloggers but I also am too old to merely post “OOTDs” on here. So, with all of my authority, creativity and knowledge I’ve acquired (thanks to that degree that only cost me a heaping pile of digital debt), I have created a week-long blog challenge for you to partake in, if you wish.

Challenge I — Discuss an unhealthy coping mechanism you used to practice, or still do practice. How did you break away from it, or how are you currently working on moving on to more positive methods of coping? When did you first really notice you were engaging in this unhealthy behavior? Did someone else have to alert you about it? Has it hindered you in your day to day life or is it something that can be more easily swept under the rug?

Challenge II — Share a time where, as an adult, you felt pure fun, joy and bliss. Maybe it wasn’t all three at once, but close enough to it. Where were you? Who were you with? Do you remember the feeling more or the actual event more? If you could go back in time and relive it, would you? Have you felt those emotions since then? If not, do you think you will again?

Challenge III — Write a haiku. This could be as simplistic as you want but I encourage you to actually take it as a serious writing assignment. One thing I’ve learned as a poet is that short poems are often the most difficult to construct, edit and complete, and anyone who produces a truly good short poem deserves a round of applause.

Challenge IV — If you could go back to/go to college or university (all expenses paid), would you? Why? Which university would you want to attend? What would you study? Do you think it would help you even more in the working world or would it more for your own pleasure?

Challenge V — Write about a personal relationship that has failed. Was there a singular cause or was it a multitude of things? Are you upset about it having failed? Why or why not? If you had the chance to go back and try to fix things, would you? What would you do?

Challenge VI — Share a song, or a couple songs, that you feel truly exemplify you and how. Maybe one of them is how other people perceive you or it’s a song that represents you at the surface level, and the other represents your more internal, deeper version of your own being.

Challenge VII — What made you want to create a blog? Were you a writer before you started one? Do you have more than one blog? What’s the overall message for your blog that you want to give to your readers?

This 7-day challenge is very clearly not meant to be super coherent in one theme. I composed these over a few days when I was able to gather some mental clarity–I do hope at least one person who stumbles across this decides to “tackle it.” I am now obligated to and I’d love some company in the journey.

What I Want // What I Need.

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Over the past year, year and a half, I’ve become more acutely aware of consumerism and how my own consumer habits hinder me. I started watching videos by Kimberly Clark, a drag queen and self-proclaimed anti-consumerist, and I was immediately invested in what she was saying about the toxicity that consumerism and the consumerist culture we live in can have. I think people like her speaking out on platforms like the one she has are so important now, I mean, just look at the day and age we’re in–YouTube has become the new TV and YouTube “influencers” and “content creators” are the new Hollywood stars. Many of these “influencers” are part of the vast, ever-expanding Youtube “beauty community,” a group notorious for peddling over-consumption, greed, and ignorance.

Now, it’s not all bad. There are plenty of influencers in the beauty community that I personally enjoy and either find not really “problematic” at all, or, while still being “problematic” in a consumerist sense, they’re still not peddling their bullshit at their viewers in such an overt way. Still, overall YouTube is choked with glassy-eyed, ring-lit infulencers who are basically just telling you what “need.” But you don’t need it.

After watching Kimberly Clark’s videos over and over, watching short documentaries about consumerism, and also reading about it in its various forms, I have become so much more aware of my own buying habits and how I want them to change. For starters, I’ve never been one for mindless buying–well, that’s not totally true, and I doubt it’s totally true for anyone–but I’ve noticed that most of the time my more mindless buying stems from feeling a loss of control in my life, or feeling more depressed than usual. Also, the mindless buying doesn’t necessarily have to be material objects; sometimes it’s food that I don’t truly need or what’s not in my budget (most of the time I can’t afford a 10 dollar cheese, despite how much I’d like to buy it).

I’ve also come to find that buying one thing sort of triggers me into wanting to buy more and more, especially when I’m in a more “vulnerable” place emotionally. With it being the holiday season I’ve begun my Christmas shopping, but I also ended up buying things for myself when doing online shopping on Black Friday. It was just a few things and I only spent a total of about 15 dollars on myself, and I’ve already gotten immediate use out of the items, but that’s not really the point. The point is, I was shopping exclusively for other people but then decided to look for things for myself–and, while I’m using them, I didn’t need them, and I could have saved that small bit of money for more gifts, for my bills, or for groceries.

The high of buying things online for myself is also different than the high of buying things in-store, and anticipating a package in the mail is part of that high. It makes me want to keep shopping and, with all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that were happening, I actually had to stop myself from further browsing through products purely for myself. Because I don’t need anything.

The mentality of need versus want is something I’ve tried to further instill in my mind for a while now but in addition to maintaining that mentality, I also have to know what to avoid, particularly on YouTube. Watching beauty “hauls” will most likely lead to me craving to buy something I do not need.  Still, sometimes I can browse Amazon or Sephora and happily add things to a wishlist without truly wanting to buy it right then and there. I’ve noticed it’s the consistently less expensive brands, like the cosmetics brand Colourpop, or websites that are having really good and fast deals, like Hautelook, that entice me the most. What stops me most of the time, honestly, is having to pay for shipping, which I’m never willing to do.

Inspired by a lovely YouTuber named Hannah, I have decided to not buy myself anything for the entire month of December. The only exceptions would be food (while still being mindful about those purchases) or if I run out of something necessary and/or I truly need something (like tampons, for example, which I will need very soon). Yesterday was the first day and I already ended up being sort of tested–first, I went to Barnes & Noble, which is absolutely a weak spot for me. I instinctively went over to the used poetry books and then turned back around after I realized that, while it was still nice to browse, I wouldn’t be able to purchase a book and I knew I would want to. After that I went to TJ Maxx, purely for Christmas gift shopping. Lo and behold, I found a discounted, untouched high-end blush that I have actually been lusting after for about a year. But I didn’t need it.

And once I commit to something, I really commit. Hence quitting smoking and no longer eating fast food. So, no nonsensical or pure-pleasure consumption for a month. I think it will be harder than I’m anticipating–after all, it’s only the end of day two–but I think it will be successful and a learning experience for myself.

Have you ever done a “no-buy” before? What’s something that you really have a hard time resisting? I’ve love to hear about others’ thoughts.

Who’s ready for cabin fever?

Not me!

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Winter came early this year, even by upstate New York standards. We’ve had snow in November before, in fact it’s not all that uncommon–we almost hit a new record two years ago. Still, we got our first snowflakes in October and our first measurable snowfall the first week of November. Our Thanksgiving also did set a record for lowest temperature ever.

Our winters used to be long, of course, but when I was growing up, they were typically more concentrated–snow really didn’t start until early December, snowfall was heavy through the months, but we had a gradual introduction to spring come March. Over the past few years the winters have become longer and more severe. Snow starts earlier, our storms are more brutal, and winter lasts much longer. Our seasons have very little graduation into one another–winter becomes summer and summer becomes winter. This past fall it went back and forth between 80 degrees to 40 degrees for weeks before finally dropping down into the low 40s and 30s since. We have some of the worst snowstorms in February but also in March and spring doesn’t show up until April, however April is a month of nonstop rain and warmer temperatures–which would be welcome, if only we had more time to adjust.

My point here is not simply just to lament about the weather and throw out some articles proving how terrible it can be, even for the people who claim to “love” winter (are you sure you mean our winter?). Really, I think it’s important to note in terms of seasonal depression, in whatever way it personally affects individuals. Our winters are more severe and longer and our seasonal changes are minimal. It’s a rough climate that seems to just be getting arguably worse in all different ways (good thing our president believes in climate change…right??).

While I desperately want winter to be over already and I can’t believe how much of it we have left, I’m shocked at how much better I’m doing this year than I was any other year. Most of that comes down to reaching a level of mental stability last fall, but even last winter I struggled more. That probably comes down to no longer being in school (finally). I only have my job to focus on, and while financial struggles are actually more real than ever before, I don’t have to worry about how to pay for textbooks and tuition, nor do I have to tout myself to a campus 26 miles away to be miserable for 7 hours then drive back and go to work right after.

I’m also giving vitamin D lots of credit here. If my memory serves me right (although it often doesn’t), I’ve taken it regularly for a long time now. But I know I would also have lapses for short periods. Now I make a point to always, every morning, take vitamin D and have been for months now. I also refuse to let myself not take my medications at night. I’ve also reincorporated vitamin B12.

In addition, I’m back on a semi-regular exercise routine and I’ve spent a lot more time outdoors exercising over the summer and fall and with the early snow, I’ve even been on short hikes in the frigid white environment. I normally hate being in the snow but being in the woods makes it so much better and, quite frankly, being in the woods is sort of like meditation for me.

I’ve been pushing myself to do more cardio at the gym. My biggest motivation for that is constantly having so much pent up energy. I’ve been slacking with weightlifting and that makes me disappointed in myself. I used to live for it but now it seems daunting and tiring. I injured my right knee a while ago and haven’t been able to do as much as I used to, and after getting sick in June for a literal month and not being able to lift, I was totally thrown out of my routine. I also lost muscle mass.

I could be jinxing myself here with going on about this so early on in the game. But I hope my efforts prove me right and this winter won’t be as bad as some others–even with all the changes that are taking place. What are winters like where you live and what do you do to keep yourself sane, if you even need to? If I could give advice to the people who decide to move to upstate New York, and there are quite a few of them from all over, it would be to invest in great tires, get a bottle of vitamin D, and prepare for the worst.

Holiday cheer does very little for me, clearly.

Current Jams XVI

Ah, yes! The long-awaited return of my Current Jams posts…because I know all of you have missed them so dearly. Regardless, I have missed them and I’m ashamed that I haven’t done one of these in two years. I’ve listened to a lot of music in those two years  but I guess a concise list of some truly current bops will have to do.

  1. Hearing Damage” – Thom Yorke. First of all, shout out to the Twilight movies for having such killer soundtracks. I feel like I’ve gone way too long neglecting Thom Yorke’s solo projects despite being such a die hard Radiohead fan. “Hearing Damage” actually reminds me a bit of Radiohead itself, especially something that I might hear off Kid A or even King of Limbs. With that being said, it still sounds like a song which Thom did indeed have total control over. The repetition of “you can do no wrong in my eyes” lingers long after the song is over. oGk3Sfs
  2. Country Figs” – Alex Cameron. I spent nearly an entire week just listening to Alex Cameron, which is actually a feat considering he only has two albums out (please, please make new music, Alex). “Country Figs” has this quick, bouncy beat laced with optimistic, gung-ho keys. The lyrics are just really clever: “I hear drunk drivers singing as they speed to a red light / no brake marks means suicide.” The song has this slightly manic but still lighthearted energy that I just can’t stop wanting to listen to. 79d7133375e7c47a9c086030bfbb1185.1000x1000x1
  3. Rays on Pinion” – Baroness. Choosing one Baroness song for this was difficult; I recently delved into their music and listened to the Red album, the Blue album, and the Yellow and Green album in a row, and then again. And then again. However, the Red album was the first one I listened to and it might just be my favorite. It’s much more instrumental and less vocal than the others and something about the nearly 8 minutes of “Rays on Pinion” tugs at my heart. The steady drumbeat with the slightly soft guitar explodes halfway through into strong, commanding vocals: “we’ve resigned ourselves to soar home / despite these wayward ways.” a4273863148_5
  4. Nobody” – Mitski. Ah, yes, finally a song that encapsulates my loneliness and sadness without actually sounding downright depressing. “Nobody” is one of the most true-pop-sounding Mitski songs I’ve heard so far and it’s been playing over and over in my head for weeks. It’s a lament but it’s done in such a saccharine-sweet way–until there’s just an eruption of “nobody” over and over until the song finally ends–that’s where the sad, empty longing is. a2337835939_10
  5. Suspiria (2018 Soundtrack)Thom Yorke. The original Suspiria film is one of my all-time favorite movies but considering how much you’ve probably already heard about why it’s fantastic, I’ll save you from that. I haven’t even seen the new film yet (it screened at an art-house theater downtown briefly and then it was gone) but I finally picked up the soundtrack, not really sure what to expect, as I hadn’t heard any of it. I drove around aimlessly just listening to this–it mesmerized me. I don’t even have the musical knowledge to describe why I find this so amazing. But I will say that it would work in so many ways with the original film, yet it is its own unique creation. The track “Volk” is one of my favorites. As a fan, I am just so proud of Thom Yorke for creating and producing this gorgeous piece of art entirely on his own. One word: haunting. xl-recordings-thom-yorke-suspiria-music-for-the-lu

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • “Sicko Mode” – Travis Scott
  • “Genghis Khan” – Miike Snow
  • “My My My” – Troye Sivan
  • “Nina Cried Power” – Hozier
  • “Yikes” – Kanye West
  • “Sixteen Saltines” – Jack White
  • “Mr. Tillman” – Father John Misty
  • “High Hopes” – Panic at the Disco

 

You Know It’s Bad.

 

You know it’s bad when you start fantasizing about the lanky dishwasher from across the parking lot. The one who never wears a jacket, even when it’s below freezing and blustering sleet. The one with the perpetually bruised under eyes and the deep stare that you can’t decipher because he always looks like frightening, like you’re not sure if that stare means he wants to kill you, eat you, fuck you, or all three. And boy, does he stare. He stares across the way and through the glass and you don’t even have to look anymore than your peripheral will allow to see that stare and his hand at his mouth, smoke pluming from his lips.

It’s bad when you start to realize maybe you want to fuck him. You’ve seen him out there every day for nearly three years. You wait for him to emerge from that back door. You wait for him to turn to the side to light his cigarette and you wait for him to put his lighter away and then stare at you. You wait for it to be over but you also wait for him to stub the cigarette on the bricks and you feel disappointed. You wonder if he saw you toss your hair over your shoulder. When he stares, you become a performance.

You think about running into him somewhere, somewhere at night and in the dark. You ran into him once at the grocery store–that doesn’t count. You think about him shoving your back up against a wall; his hand running through your hair only to grab it by the roots; the tip of his nose grazing your throat; his free hand on your hip. Does he reek of cigarettes and cheap dish soap? Does he look better or worse up close? You don’t know and what bothers you the most is that you’ll never know.

You wait for the day you never see him again and you’re disappointed.