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silly changes

12 Dec

Why does a shift impact us so much? Life is full of changes, abrupt and planned, and you’d think that by the time we are considered adults (a sketchy term, indeed) we’d all be used to this by now. Nothing is static and everything changes, even slightly. We change, everyone around us changes, and sometimes, with little forewarning, our reality changes. And yet every time it happens we lose our balance, in varying degrees. Come on: even after a few months we know how to ride the Metro without flopping around the cabin, right?

I had a wonderful weekend planned with my girl: drive off to a location close enough to not require intense planning, but sufficiently far away to make us pay attention to new surroundings. “People dress funny here.” “Cute little town, no?” Our bags were packed, the car was ready, the road and a lovely few days were ahead of us. We drove for a couple of hours, eagerly awaiting a few days of relaxation and disconnection from the everyday: no internet, no errands, no taking work home. Upon arrival I realized something truly important: I had forgotten the keys to the lodge; I clearly visualized them laying on my nightstand in my apartment. To label my reaction as pissed frustration would be to use the mildest of euphemisms.

I have realized that I am a planner. I like to know what is ahead of me and prepare accordingly. It took me awhile to acknowledge this, mainly because I often bought into the delusion that I was a spontaneous man with no need for a compass: a man, of the most romantic, Indiana Jones-sort. But that’s a lie. I need an Outlook calendar, I need reminders, I need a map, and I need action items. I can do well enough with just a skeleton of a plan, which is better than nothing. Even knowing that nothing is planned is better for me than not knowing what to expect/or not. Knowing there will be no guidance at least offers me the necessary expectations: none.

The little things get me the most. The movie is sold out; I forgot to buy a new pair of socks while at Target; I overcooked the salmon. I know these are minor things, that my fussing over them makes me both a bit silly and a bit capricious (maybe a lot of both, actually). People outside my bubble are suffering much greater tragedies than my lack of socks. Thanks to meditation, perspective, and a little something else, I am getting much better at realizing how silly my personal “tragedies” are in comparison to others’. (This comparison is actually quite helpful. Knowing that your issues are comparatively petty helps bring the boil down).

Then the romantic weekend snafu happens, leaving me stewing and seething the entire drive  home.

The morning after the keys incident (of which we shall never speak of again–although my girlfriend can keep this one in her pocket for quite a while, and deservedly so) we managed to give it another go. It actually turned out to be just as meaningful as we had originally planned…and that’s the point. Nothing changed from one night to the next morning, except my frame of mind. I had put the silly incident behind me and nudged myself to realize I was still about to have a great little vacation. This little bit of nudging is hard, mainly because we all like to be the dramatist of our own lives, and turn our daily disappointments into tragedies worth of the Classics. It’s easy to say Woe is me!; it’s much harder to realize your life’s not that too shabby after all.

I am a planner, and that’s not a bad thing. It gives me moments of Zen. What really fucks things up is when I see my plan (or non-plan, even) change, tell myself that I shouldn’t fret, but then do and piss myself off for acting like a planner. If I only I accept that yes, I do get upset when things change, and surrender to the fact that that is how planners react when shi(f)t happen, I will do a much better time of keeping my balance, little pebbles be damned.

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there's no wrong answer

9 Jun

What’s the point: the point of it, the point of this, the point of everything, the point of tomorrow…

 

This is a rabbit-hole question, and possibly one the heaviest ones. It takes a Herculean feat to solve it. It’s suffocating to have it hover over you as you live your days. When it shows up, it doesn’t leave for days, constantly reminding you of its pestering presence. Kinda like Urkel.

 

Do I ignore it, hoping it will find itself the door? Do I try to figure it out, knowing very well that I’ll soon grow tired of its pretentious “complexity,” like a hipster who drops “Kafka considered” much too often in a conversation.

 

Whatever I should do, I can’t completely dismiss it. It’s there for a reason. Anytime a What’s The Point comes up for me, it means something. However I answer it, even if it’s not much of an answer at all, says a lot about me as a thinking, sentient living being. I’d even venture on to say that the answer itself is pointless; what truly matters is the thought process.

 

Am I trying my best to answer the question, OR am I avoiding it and focusing on superficial pleasures instead?

 

Am I trying to decide which great thing I am meant to do, OR am I hoping for luck to strike me someday?

 

Do I include others in my purpose, OR do I think about making myself happier right now?

 

When it comes to framing our lives, psychologists put us in two buckets: fixed and growth.  The fixed mindset is when we think of our talents and capacities as fixed,  and obstacles in life as tests meant to measure them. The growth mindset is when we see intelligence, of all kind, as malleable, and each challenge we face as a chance to develop ourselves further. Our realities, past, present and future, are the same, but our framework can change them completely.

 

Nothing is worth anything until it meets our thinking.

 

Same goes with purpose. For a long time I was obsessed with figuring out my purpose with painstaking certainty, and sticking to it through my present work. Every choice of some significance had this grand question looming over it: I had a gameshow host waiting to punch the buzzer and escort me out. It was a hell sandwich and a half.

 

I eventually decided that this was for the birds. Whatever I chose to do, for however long I did it, could, if I let it, become its own purposeful and meaningful venture. If I saw things through a healthy lens, feeling confident that putting in the work would result in something great (letting something truly be anything), my journey would become more manageable–even kinda enjoyable. Focus on the present challenge and turn a lifelong trek into a string of sprints, skips, and jogs. And that’s where I am at now, thankfully.

 

I will go out on a limb and say that anybody mulling over this question (the question) is driven, self-aware, and intensely curious about life. Doing anything with that mindset guarantees its own riches. The kicker is being OK with letting go of the expectations you set for yourself based on incomplete information, and waiting and seeing what goodness you’ll eventually bump into. Here’s to a lifetime of good work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

you are what you speak

19 May

When I was about 12, I told my mom about my horrible friends who never wanted to do what I wanted to. “I should just make new friends!,” I proclaimed, probably as I shook my fist in the air. Her response was vintage Mrs. Zepeda:

 

“Maybe you’re the one who’s a bad friend”

 

Looking back on that gem reminds me of two things. 1) My mother never minced words, and 2) She was right.

 

I was placing all of the blame on an “other” (my friends), and by doing that I relieved myself of critical look in the mirror. I found out that, yeah, I was a crummy friend, stubborn and bossy (some things never change). After that aha! moment, I tried harder to NOT be that, resulting in me keeping many of those friends for the rest of my childhood.

 

When we speak in me v. them terms, we are painting things black and white, when they are probably a whole lot of grey. We are missing an opportunity to ask questions like: Why is there a battle to begin with? What’s my role in this conflict? Could it be that I was the catalyst?

 

One way we create camps is through the adjectives we use for others. Calling someone lazy/mean/loud is not just a descriptor, but a line drawn in the sand. They (those lazy/mean/loud folk) are not me. I’d even venture to say that saying those things gives us a boost, by dropping them down a peg, at least in our mind.

 

But the rub is that those adjectives say much more about us than about them. How we label other people tends to be how we are ourselves. Maybe we are lazy/mean/loud folk, too. Not only that, but using negative descriptors means that we might be negative people ourselves.

 

The level of negativity [one] uses in describing the other person may indeed indicate that the other person has negative characteristics, but may also be a tip off that the rater is unhappy, disagreeable, neurotic or has other negative personality traits.

 

You are what you eat, and you are what you speak. Just like food, words are part of your diet. If you feed your mind and body negative communication, what do you expect? Feed yourself positive, wholesome adjectives for others, and you’ll notice the healthy boost.

 

Tweaking our language can do wonders to our outlook. Try (as hard as that may be) to find a redeeming quality in that “other” person: a personality trait, work ethic, physical feature, or lifestory. There’s always something good about someone. It’s hard to empathize, but it’s worth it. Find that goodness, focus on it, and shed that negative mind clutter.

 

nooks, books, and kindles

18 May

I stumbled upon this list of lovely bookstores on Salon, and couldn’t help but be in awe. These bookstores aren’t just edifices built on brick and wood, but symbols of something longer lasting. They have history, personality, panache, and cult followings.

 

People talk about how printed books are relics from an unsophisticated past. To be honest, the recent e-book/e-reader craze has yet to win me over: I don’t get it.

 

I love reading, but I also love books (not the same thing, to all Zodiac fans out there). It might just be my inner child, wanting to touch and feel my way around the world, but the physical presence of a book is quite unique.

 

The bookstore combines all those books and their inherent “bookiness,” and then adds another layer of personality atop.  A bookstore and its structure say a lot, not only about the owner, but about the neighborhood, the country, and the culture. Going through the slideshow you can’t help to think, “Yeah, that’s totally a French bookstore”/”Of course the Egyptian one would look like that.”

 

A book also carries with it a measure of time. Unlike e-books where one feels the same as 20 in your hand, the touch of a book communicates how much time you have or will invest in it. The books on your shelf symbolize months upon months of your lifetime. Do you get that feeling with a Kindle?

 

My main concern with e-readers is that they are yet another vehicle to speed up our days. Even if we make some “sit down and read” time with our Nooks/Kindles, we feel this background pang that might eventually lead us to check our email, online shop, or look up a word right then and there. E-books add to the frenzy.

 

Research shows that this generation’s teenagers (Generation Z?) are the most connected people around…yet the rate of depression among that group is alarmingly high. They have hundreds of friends online, and send/receive thousands of texts, but their face-to-face time with friendly faces is slim. They are connected, but not at all.

 

Milling about in a bookstore, thumbing through a potentially good read, is not unsophisticated, or antiquated. It just is. And sometimes, that offers plenty of value.

 

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