Although I'm not out there playing the dating game at all, I keep Tinder on my phone largely just to maintain my URL and swipe right or left now and then. Lately I've been a little stunned at just how many people simply love camping. I mean, I like camping, but I don't love it. I'm not likely to do it without good company. I will choose music and culture over camping pretty-much every time. If I could live the "aspirational lifestyle," it's unlikely that I'd spend too much of it camping.
After getting kinda' disillusioned by all these supercamper profiles, this article in McSweeney's made me laugh out loud numerous times.
The satire is dead-on.
My intricately braided hair looks perfect even though I haven’t washed it in three days, and although I’ll tell you I love getting dirty, you will never actually see dirt on my person, unless it is artfully and strategically placed in a cute spot like highlighting my perfect cheekbones. I live in yoga pants and my activewear fits as though it’s been tailored because I did, in fact, get it tailored. I don’t dress like this because it attracts every amateur rock climber, mountain biking van lifer, kayak-wielding weekend warrior, and sentient pair of Chacos in a 15-mile radius. That’s just an unintended side effect that I happen to enjoy. I also love wolf dogs and being in the woods because no one can hear you scream.
I understand that people love the outdoors and some people really, really live for it. But the sheer prevalence of outdoorsy profiles makes me feel like getting to spend time outdoors is a matter of status, much like the ability to travel is, or perhaps one's gorgeously sculpted body, or perhaps their app-driven meditation routine, or perhaps their tanned skin, or the way their children are in clubs or on teams for every moment of the waking day.
There's something that discomforts me about filling so much time with deliberate activity. It's as if we've taken the way we've lost our ability to be bored and replaced that boredom with the image of personal completeness. As long as I can fill my time with being outside, I will be happy. And I can post this to my Instagram feed or to my dating profile and I will be happy. I can't quite put it into words, but it's a tone that feels... just a little dishonest.
Or I'm just a dick because I don't live that lifestyle. I mean, I guess I kinda' could: I could find venues where I could play music every night, for example, and finally get my songs recorded and presentable. That would likely be what my own aspirations would look like.
And perhaps then... I would pummel my own feeds and dating profiles with my life goals.
Susanna Emerson, in her article about the Aspirational Lifestyle, which may have been the first place where I jived with the term, writes,
Political implications aside, featuring “the aspirational lifestyle” on an Instagram feed isn’t about sharing joy. Authenticity is missing. It’s not a case of, “I’m having so much fun, and want you to be able to join me in my glee” or even “I just got a Vespa and it’s the best thing to happen to me!” It’s more like: “Admire me for the things I have.” Or better yet, “jealous, aren’t you?” There’s a sinister undertone to the story the aspirational character is telling, and it’s is the same one underneath most advertising campaigns: “Just in case you hadn’t realized, you’re not good enough.” In ad campaigns, a product swoops in to solve your problems and make you good enough. On Instagram, there’s usually not always option for immediate relief, but aspirational posts sure do beget copycats (hence the ubiquity of yacht shots and acai bowls).
When I see all these dating profiles that just say "camping, camping, camping," I can't help but feel a little bit of that jealousy—for a lifestyle wherein one has enough time to go camping regularly—and I long, just a little bit, for that sort of freedom with my time.
And that time may come. I recently finally invested in a tent and sleeping bag for myself, so I'm on my way there. I'm on my way to being able to say "yes" to camping.
As for choosing to go out on my own... I'll still choose a good gig.
Lately I've been looking a little at furnishings. I've found myself at home and felt decidedly uncomfortable. I've tried to do a couple things to improve this over the last few months—most notably, I picked up two CD towers so I can start to listen to CDs again—but my apartment still feels rather unhomelike: my computer desk doesn't seem to fit the work I need to do; my chairs aren't really comfortable to sit in; there's no place to invite a guest to sit and be comfortable. It's a place where I live, but not much of a home, even for someone who's moved around as much as I have.
Last week, the School of Life uploaded this video:
In the written summary of the video, they say,
Creating a home is frequently such a demanding process because it requires us to find our way to objects that can correctly convey our identities. We may have to go to enormous efforts to track down what we deem to be the ‘right’ objects for particular functions, rejecting hundreds of alternatives that would – in a material sense – have been perfectly serviceable, in the name of those we believe can faithfully communicate the right message about who we are.
But right now, what does my home say about me?
My one-bedroom apartment
When we lived in Hope, I liked the hand-me-down aesthetic we had as a family. We had grandma's couches, a different gandma's table, and the rest of the furnishings were typical young-family Ikea fare. I felt pretty comfortable with that aesthetic. We didn't own much furniture, but that was more than OK with me.
However, when it came time to replace the sofa, I discovered that I'm a far more picky person than I ever expected. No matter what sofa I looked at with my wife, I didn't like it. I saw problems with all of them. This was extremely discouraging for both of us. And although we replaced that couch eventually, we never really had one I was happy with.
I still haven't bought a couch. Last summer, I bought a cheap leather loveseat off of Craigslist and put it beneath one of my kids' loft beds, but I don't really have a living area that's couch-worthy, that has room for anything. See the photo I posted a couple weeks ago below: my bed's in the living room; there's an enormous plastic folding table, and quite simply not the room for a couch.
So what does my home say about me? Here are my suggestions:
So I'll keep an eye out for a good couch. And I'll have to get a smaller table one of these days.
Until then, I'll keep the place clean enough for... me.
In October of 2016, I voluntarily took a psychological exam. I wanted to see if my perception was all wrong, if I was looking at the world through a decidedly selfish, narcissistic lens. After bouts of therapy and counselling, the dissolution of my marriage, and loads of reading, I felt confused and frustrated. I wanted to see if I was as horrible as I sort-of felt I was. Maybe I just wanted to talk. For whatever reason, I took this exam-thing,
I can't find the online reference I made to it; I wrote a summary post on Tumblr, but perhaps I deleted it. The main thing I remember the psychologist saying, though, was "You seem to be of sound mind, but your values are all over the map." Essentially, I let myself be pulled around and don't really run with anything. Which is likely true.
I still find myself being pulled around this way. I still battle with trusting my gut enough to stand up for anything. When I do stand up for my values and what I believe is a good thing to do, I'm usually wracked with self-doubt. I'd say I'm doing better than I did a year ago, but I still find it hard to really stand up for anything. If someone suggests they have a better way of doing something, I tend to just go along with it. It takes deliberate, mind-wrenching effort to say, "I'd like to do this... this way... and I will follow that through."
I'm sure there's plenty of nature-nurture stuff to attribute this mindset to. Growing up in Baptist churches, I was frequently told told that I was a sinful wretch who didn't deserve anything without God's help, that Christianity was the only lens through which to see the world. My parents wanted me to follow the faith, but I don't think they intended for me to internalize as much of that type of negative teaching. When you have one authority figure after another telling you that you're horrible and incapable of navigating the world, and you really identify with that thinking, it's easy to let others abscond with your sense of perception; when shame and guilt are virtuous feelings to have to back up your wretchedness, and you're prone to shame and guilt, it ices the don't-trust-yourself cake. In my case, I believe it primed me for doubting my perception.
My counsellor suggested that I listen to Brené Brown's "Men, Women, and Worthiness," so I need to order that. I've read one of Brown's books before, but maybe it's time for me to return to her work again. Perhaps I'm a little more in touch with my shame than I used to be, and I might be able to take it on from a new angle.
I'd like to think I'm learning a little more about how it's OK to have values, boundaries, and needs, and that I'm allowed to try to be happy in my goals to be a good dad and good person. But I have a long way to go before I can feel confident in my own perception, confident that I won't hide behind tinted shame-glasses.
One step at a time.
Last Friday, I visited the open mic night at the Tractorgrease Cafe down on the Chilliwack River Road. It was a good night. I played my first two songs from my New Year's resolution to write a song a week. They seemed to go over well; I got some good feedback.
I happened to sit down next to a party of three who had shown up to Tractorgrease for the first time. We got to talking pretty easily. The most outgoing of the bunch had the gift of the gab and told stories about his past, his good business dealings, his satisfied life, and his aspirations for the future. It was nice to hear a bunch of stories from someone who seemed so confident about their values and place in the world.
He talked about money. He described various accomplishments and said, "Most people don't know what serenity you can find when you stop worrying about money. I hope you find that sort of serenity yourself." And I agreed that I'd like to have that sort of serenity.
I totally get it. I worry about money. I think about money a lot. Too much.
To me, there's a money spectrum of sorts. On the one end, there's the reality that money is just a human construct that has no real bearing on our inner lives; if a meteor hit the earth and vaporized everything, the next society wouldn't naturally evolve a money-based system. There are almost always ways to gather enough money to get by, no matter what challenges there might be in the world.
On the other end, money is a reality that has real consequences in our society. Although it's not worth worrying about, it's also such an integral aspect of our lives that we need to take it into consideration. And sometimes, oftentimes, we have to do things we don't really want to do in order to get some of the money necessary to do the things we actually want to do.
Back to the cafe last Friday: this is all Captain Obvious stuff, but it seemed like this guy next to me was advocating for the one side of the spectrum: don't worry about money; breaking free from the shackles of money brings "solace" (his words). Simultaneously, he described a lifestyle well beyond my ability in any way: lavishing loved ones with gifts, owning a boat, and various hedonistic pleasures.
So it seems like, at least in this case, if you have enough money... you don't have to worry so much about money.
I'd like to think I don't worry as much about money as I used to, and that might be the case. I've kinda' settled for my lot in life these days, considering that I've topped-out on my pay scale for this position. Apart from incremental salary increases over the next few years, the only ways I can make a few extra bucks here and there are through side hustles of sorts. I can handle that. And I'll be OK as long as I can generally hold myself together and keep my job. And perhaps a good, consistent job would be the best way to be kind to future-self anyhow.
But I'm going to keep my eye out for those ways that I can build a better income for myself. I'm admittedly jealous/envious of people who can be a little more free with the stuff. Not envious enough to take a big risk at the moment, but enough to keep an eye on the horizon.
ON ANOTHER NOTE: A couple days ago, Facebook brought it to my attention that it was my 3rd anniversary of playing at the Tractorgrease Cafe. Here's a clip from that little set:
A few months ago I wrote a little bit about trying to "get out there" and make friends. This is an enduring process and I can't say I've done much good at it so far. I've started being able to talk more to some people at karaoke; I'm still connected to some people from the play. This is all good. As the New York Times editorial says (embedded above), I find I "'take an extremely efficient approach and seek out like-minded folks to fill very specific needs.'" And I'd like to think that's OK.
For example, I find myself seeking musicians to play with. When I was younger, I basically gravitated towards other musicians and they gravitated towards me. It was astoundingly easy to find other musicians to play with. Today, however, i find myself far more picky; I play with musicians with high hopes, but don't seem to have the patience I once had with musicians who might not blend so well with me. But here I go, still seeking out some people to fill the "musician need" in my life.
Out of all this, I've grown far more aware of the importance of old friends, of those friendships I developed long before I got so picky. I've found myself reconnecting with them in the old ways: by telephone, by dropping in when I'm in the area. This has been good. I've been grateful for this because these people who've known me for the longest amount of time tend to know me best, because they can saw the good in me before I may have jaded them.
I still maintain connections with plenty of people I knew from University, church, summer camp, and high school. Facebook has helped me keep in touch with a few of them, even though I don't see them often. This is good too, I guess. I used to be cynical about the way Facebook seemed such a shallow gathering place, and I still am, but more importantly I use Messenger to say "Hello" to people when I'm in the area, when I feel like I might have the opportunity to drop by. This is good.
There's an irony in this: I used to feel pretty critical about how my parents seemed to maintain their friendships. Most of their friendships were based around church or my dad's old car club. However, now I find that I'm in the same boat, even though my activities are different. The greatest joy of doing those community theatre productions was their church-like atmosphere, the way adults from different corners of the community came together to put on a project that mattered to them. My parents' friendships, which seemed oft-fleeting and organization-based, are now part of my normal everyday interactions.
I'd still love to meet a really good friend nearby, but I feel like at this point they might not be close to my age. They might be a decade older or younger than me, 'cuz adults don't need those delineations.
And it's crazy how work can get in the way. This term, all of my socializing centred on the play. Beyond that, I simply didn't have the time to do anything but try to rest and get things done at home. When the semester turns over in a couple weeks, I hope to feel like I can hang out with people in the evenings again.
Adult friendships are hard. But I'd like to think I'm getting used to it.
YouTube: ephemeral ideas
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