I Miss When Information Used to Play Hard to Get, and Here’s Why

Sometimes it's the hard things that remind you what being present feels like.

 

This morning I was in my bed, using my phone to remember the detailed uses of Turmeric on inflammation. It was fun, don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to do things like this. However, I remember that there used to be this feeling of magic that would infuse my being as I learned about herbs. This morning, I began to wonder where that feeling went.

I wondered if part of it might have to do with how I get the information. As I first began learning about herbal medicine, I was on the road with someone who knew more about it than I did. We were living in my van, with a little puppy. We traveled from city to city, on random adventures. Every book store and free pile was a treasure trove. We did not have much money, so the books we could find for free were immense blessings. He would teach me about herbs, and I would read about Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda as I passed through towns I would never see again.

The information came from a few sources. It came from him, it came from strangers who happened to know about it, and it came from books. The internet was around, but it was one of those things I didn’t really deal with at the time. I had a cell phone, but it was too early for there to be Google on it. Every bit of information was worked for. Every bit had to be remembered, internalized, and then used. When I found a book, I could read it in the car seat, I could put my finger on a word to take a pause and look out the window.

And the thing about books is that there is only so many of them. You go to a book store and glance at the alternative medicine shelf, and you only can choose from what is there. If one town has a lot of avid herbalism fans who subsequently decide to get rid of their books, you are in a massive state of luck. If you find a free pile that has something, anything, that mentions the uses of Turmeric, then you soak it all in.

Now I can find a thousands sites with that information. I can find a thousand more that disprove the information, and then another three thousand that counteract the disproving claims. There is no end to it. But at the end of the day, it makes my eyes hurt and my brain feels no fuller than it did beforehand. I don’t need to remember any of it, because I can simply look it up again tomorrow.

I don’t know much about neurons and brain chemistry. I don’t know if there is really any difference between reading the pages of a paper book and looking at a website. There are hundreds of intellectuals, scientists, and comedians who have brought attention to the fact that information is ridiculously easy to come by these days. But what does this do for the process of learning it, for the feeling of learning things in general? For that magic?

For me, it is slightly less magical to be able to look up the medicinal benefits of Turmeric than to have to find a book that tells me the information or a person who knows it. However, it is great that so many people can have access to all the information in the world. That way, even if you live in a small town with a lame book store or no book store at all, you can still figure out whether or not a nice dose of Turmeric tea will help you with that budding case of rheumatoid arthritis. You can even make sure that you are spelling rheumatoid correctly!

Maybe my intention with this post for myself and for my readers is to remind us that we should acknowledge what types of information we are using each day. We can realize how much of it we are getting from the internet, and how much of it we are reading from real books and learning from real people. I think it’s healing and good for me to have some treasure hunts to take part in every so often, and Google is a giant blessing, but not for the treasure hunter within me. She needs more of a chase, and doesn’t like her information being so easy.

Another part of this process to pay attention to is the effort it takes. If you are not sure whether or not you are passionate about something, think about whether or not you would put the effort in to go to the bookstore or library and get a book on it. Would you be willing to put in that effort to learn more about your passion, or are you content to just find a few websites and call it a day? And if that feels right, then so be it, but I hope that the feeling of magic finds its way in still.

I wonder how I would feel about herbalism if I had been immersed in the world of the internet when my interest was first forming. Would there have been any magic in it then? Would serendipity have been able to make me feel like certain books were put in my path at certain times? Would I have found a beaten up copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on a sidewalk and looked up at the sky in gratitude?

I guess my main point is that I hope we can all make sure to let real life be as important as possible. Especially during a time when we can blog our thoughts out to random strangers, look at other people’s random thoughts, and make friends we’ve never met. Let serendipity make its way into your life sometimes, that’s how you get the magic that takes you places.

 

Procrastination: Why Does it Taste Better Than Chocolate to a Half-Hearted Vegan?

How could you not get work done?

So as I found myself researching about what Freud would think about procrastinating while I was supposed to be working, I figured it might be a good idea to blog about it.

Why does it feel so good to do those things that we know we shouldn’t be doing, especially and potentially only when we shouldn’t be doing them?

Making a blog post feels much more satisfying when I know I should be working. Looking at pictures of 3-D sidewalk art feels much the same way. So does exploring what the people I don’t even know on Facebook have been up to. Why is this?

I guess it could come down to a balance between the pleasure principle and the superego. Or the relationship between Mugen and Jin if you want to get all Samurai Champloo about it.  I’m not really sure, because I had to put off my Freud study-time in order to make this blog post, and my anime time doesn’t come till later on in the evening.

I feel that for me, the beauty of the situation is that you get to be in two places at once. You get to be the person who feels like they should be doing something important, and also the person who is doing something very un-important and loving every second of it. You get to be the kid that is making art instead of eating dinner. You get to be the teenager who stayed out past the curfew, fearless of the consequences. You get to break every rule that was made for you, except you are now the maker and the breaker.

You have it all.

It’s the cartoons that happen during the school day instead of the ones on Saturday morning. It’s the dessert you eat for breakfast. It’s the ball that you sink into the pocket after a slick combo move that you didn’t even plan, and you didn’t even need to call it cuz the other players weren’t playing with those rules.

There is something straight-up good about the things that you get to do while breaking the rules. And how does this relate to enjoying life for once? In every single way.

Pay attention to your rules. Pay attention to the ones that you never even thought of breaking, because maybe, just maybe, there is an intense enjoyment to be found there. Not in the ones that society lays out for you, because that’s not where the problem lies. The rules I’m talking about are the ones that you have laid out for yourself, and the ones that no one else may really even notice.

Because what are rules but arbitrary, when you really get down to it? I mean, murder is wrong, but nobody can watch True Grit without feeling a sense of deep satisfaction when you-know-who is finally pushed off of a you-know-what. That’s right. I’m not into spoilers. The point is that the rules we live by are relatively arbitrary, and they can all be broken in good taste once in awhile.

And when you can label the silly rules that you put on yourself, then you can learn how to break them. Maybe it’ll feel real good, maybe it’ll make you feel free. Perhaps you will be. Maybe you can even taste life on the other side, and then take the whole issue to the supreme court of your own mind. Bring it through the legislation. Legalize some of the behaviors that you previously deemed off-limits for yourself. Throw out some of the restrictions that only made sense twenty years ago. And learn to live free, because you are the only one enforcing those rules.

At the same time, enjoy a healthy dose of procrastination as long as you are paying your bills. Some rules have to just be there…like the whole ‘working to make a living’ one.

Side note: Me and Freud have the same birthday.

The Like Button: Fast Food for the Pleasure Principle

You can always see it, you just have to look.

Look more closely. Always.

We all do it. We turn on our Facebook or our email, we see that seven people *liked* something we wrote, and we feel good. If three people I never met like one of my blog posts, I’ll admit it, I get a nice little tingle inside.

However.

This situation is getting out of control, people. Not only with the *likes*. Not only with the obscure friend requests, the comments, the ability to *like* a comment. Pretty soon you’ll be able to like someones like, and pardon my lethargy when it comes to adding the stars, but you get the idea.

I think that this mentality is creeping in much farther than we think. Our social interactions, which used to require effort and intention, are now being reduced to a series of clicks and keystrokes. I can tell you that I love you by typing eight letters and two spaces, four spaces if it is in some sort of context. And even a period or a comma if I’m one of those who still remembers their petty and yet incredibly important existence.

No longer do I have to send a letter to you from afar declaring my affections, with the honesty of my words being shown through my pen strokes. I don’t even have to walk to your house or make plans to meet you. I don’t even have to hear your voice over the phone, because I can simply text. This can feel rather normal, but it’s actually insane.

Someone who *likes* your post does not *like* you. Even someone who follows my blog, bless all your precious souls, does not really know me, does not really care about me. I am here, in this room, strangers yelling about a horse shoe game outside, cars passing by in whiry blips of noise, a boyfriend typing away on the bed trying to get the dog to be less lazy; and anyone who follows my blog doesn’t know this. Even though in some sick way, it feels like they do. It feels like when they start to follow my blog, they are actually aware of the whole situation. I feel that if someone *likes* a post I write, that they know what I actually meant. What I was feeling as I left it.

And this is not the case. But it gets even worse.

There’s a pet peeve of mine that is developing a rather intense aggression problem as of late. Look. Facebook doesn’t care what you like or share. They do not give money to things that you like or share. Some organizations have valid offers in which they give you a discount for something or a coupon because you *like* their page. But people that I love and respect are actually thinking that if they make a Facebook post about Southwest Airlines and *like* it, that they are getting free tickets. It’s not even from the actual company. Seriously, people? You really think that the already cheapest airline is going to give free tickets to anyone that clicks a button, to anywhere that they want to go? That. Is. In. Sane.

My point is this. We need to realize that real life-changing experiences are not as easy as clicking on or sharing something. Each one of us needs to take account of our social lives, and sort out the whole-grains from the processed foods. We need to acknowledge how much of our daily social gratification is coming from real life, from people who love and respect us, who see us and hear us; and people who are sitting somewhere else in a room we’ve never seen, clicking buttons to show their affection; regardless of how much they mean it.

The feeling of really relating to someone is deeper than this. It is intense. It involves breaking barriers, feeling empathy and sympathy, and sometimes feeling incredibly uncomfortable. It involves seeing, smelling, and feeling the air. It involves effort. It involves time. It involves intention and attention. It is not instant. It is not getting a cheeseburger from a cow you’ve never seen in a place you’ve never been in less time than it takes to get the money out of your wallet and check your text messages. It is hearty, full-grained, fibrous and all-consuming of your being in the moment. It is not something you do while you are drinking coffee and having a conversation with someone else at the same time.

Humans are complicated and amazing. The food you eat today somehow turns into cells that become your body later. The things you do today lead to memories that affect your consciousness in countless ways that you cannot even imagine. And each time that you click a *like*, or receive one and feel something, you are being programmed. This can be an amazing thing if well-balanced with a social life that has plenty of real and life-enhancing interactions.

We are all affected by this. No baby that has cancer is suffering in a hospital that has staff sitting around seeing how many people “shared” a post of that baby and carrying out the treatment accordingly. No airline is calculating the people who not only shared, but liked their own post about the airline, and doling out free tickets to Hawaii. People aren’t doing this. The fact that many of us believe that the whole world is watching our minuscule contributions to Facebook and giving out money to those in need is sad to me. If you want to help a baby with cancer, donate five dollars to a good organization. Make sure it’s their real page, by the way. If you want free tickets, try to find information on the actual website. Don’t just believe things, don’t just click buttons. That is not how *LIFE* works.

We need to remember this. Especially those of us that are watching it happen right before our eyes, because those younger than us are just eating it up. Sometimes humans like to take the easy way out. We want to drink alcohol to express ourselves. We want to use auto-correct instead of looking up a word in a dictionary. We want to send an email or a text instead of making a phone call. We want to get our protein by eating meat, but we don’t want to get our hands bloody in the process. We want to be healthy and eat quinoa, but we have no idea how to grow it. We want to feel that those who *like* our little posts are telling us that we are good.

I am blessed to be living with a boyfriend who actually sees me. Actually understands my moods, listens to my needs, expresses his own, and loves me. I have never been so lucky, and I am in a position that is different than many people. I feel like I am wearing the sunglasses in They Live, because I am not hungry for the things that are being offered. But to those who are, I feel the need to do something. To say something. To remind people and myself that life has been happening and is still happening, and is never as easy as clicking a button. So please. Do not confuse the two.

Creating New Comfort Zones: The Importance of Exploring New Territory With a Slow Pace

Big trees need big roots. They don't always grow as fast as we'd like them to, but they can be worth the wait.

As many of you know, I recently moved to Austin, Texas from my little suburban town in Connecticut. Although I have lived many other places in my life, none of them have actually been cities; and rarely have I ever moved somewhere to instantly have an apartment and a job and responsibilities.Usually I just had a backpack and a wide open schedule.

So this move has been different than any other; and as such, it has been teaching me things that other transitions have not.

For instance, for the last three days, me and my partner have spent most of our time in the 2 mile radius around our apartment. We have explored the shopping areas so that we could obtain groceries, and we have explored the Green Belt so that we can get our nature fix and let the dog run. These things are important.

And yet, part of me wonders why we have not yet set foot in the downtown areas that we were so looking forward to. The Alamo Drafthouse, the little coffee shops, the local music-filled bars. Why are we so slow with this process?

Then I thought more about it, after breaking my computer and having plenty of time to think instead of work, and I realized that it makes perfect sense. We need to get familiar with this small area before we can comfortably expand into the rest of the city and see what it has to offer. We have to nurture our roots, our home, our connection to our neighborhood. Then we can explore and know exactly how to find our way back home, and also know what our home actually is.

The reason I wanted to make a post about this realization is that I think it may be the same type of situation for any new area you are moving to- whether it be a physical move or a mental one. If you want to move beyond anxiety or depression, you have to take little steps. You have to have your eye on a goal, in my case, this apartment, and give it the attention it needs so that it becomes familiar. Once you have that in place, you can slowly expand to new territory. But when the heart of your new territory is in and of itself new as well, then you have to put a significant amount of attention on making it feel like ‘home’.

After all, you need to have a safe place to come back to when you are done exploring, right?

If we apply this feeling to mental situations, you can see it in terms of any goal that you want to accomplish. Maybe you are afraid of driving on highways, or perhaps you are anxious when in public. What you can then do is make one situation, for instance, driving on one little highway with a friend who compassionately helps you remain calm and can take over if need be. You can become familiar with that one thing, and then expand outward. Once you are familiar with it, you know that even if you choose not to drive on the seven lane highways in Austin, you can still drive down the little highway by your house in Connecticut. Little baby steps. Nourishing the roots along the way.

This is all basically to say that if you feel angry or frustrated with yourself for not moving fast enough towards your goals, it may make sense to take a step back and look at where you are. Are you trying to expand too quickly, or make a giant shift all at once? Is there any way to reduce the amount of newness so that you can actually accomplish your goal in little pieces, by making a little home in a new area of your psyche and building it up until it becomes familiar?

For me, it seems that this would be the key for any growth that I want to do. There are dozens of big and very specific fears that I have, and I am now thinking that it would make more sense to slowly work with them by making little comfortable areas in the new territories; much like this little apartment in the big city of Austin which I have yet to explore fully.

Impermanence: Can You Live Like You are Always About to Leave the Party?

Nothing like the open road to wake you up to what you are leaving behind.

The easiest way to see what you have is to leave it behind.

At a family party a few weeks ago, my dad said something rather profound. We had just told the family that we had to leave, and although the party had been rather quiet for the last few hours, people began talking more energetically once we had declared our looming departure.

“You see that, Jen? As soon as they know they are leaving, everyone just wants to talk, talk, talk.” We watched the group and pondered this.

Situations that we are in shift the focus of our reality-lens. For me, leaving a place is always a sure-fire way to get me to see all the little things I’ve been missing. The way my dad smiles at me. The feeling of pulling into my driveway. The sound of the drip in the kitchen sink. These things are sometimes only brought to my attention when I know that I am not going to be around them again for a long, long time.

The prospect of moving to Austin, Texas is thrilling to me in many ways. I am going to be in a community of people who are interesting. I am going to be right near the Green Belt, where my dog can be happy and I can be around trees. I am going to keep my article-writing job and be able to work from amazing little coffee shops that are new and interesting.

And yet, anxiety flows all through my veins. I am going to be leaving behind my family, who I have certainly left behind before; but now I’m doing it again. I will leave behind the comfort of a town I am familiar with. I will be going to a city that I have never lived, in a place I have never been, around people I do not yet know. These things are crazy.

And yet, I can perceive none of them. I can only perceive where I am, this house, this forest, this town. The details appear as if they are brand new. Suddenly the exact shape of the yard is brought to my attention. The sound of the distant traffic at night is more potent, the stars are more vivid. Why is this? Is my anxiety causing an increased level of attention? Is my sympathetic nervous system on high-alert and causing me to perceive each detail?

Or am I merely aware of what is always true but is easily ignored; that is, the fact that everything is impermanent.

We never know who we are going to see each day. The friends and loved ones we know can always leave, in expected or unexpected ways. Our house could burn down, our town could get demolished in a storm, our continent could be swallowed by a black hole. These things can always happen, everything is always temporary…

So why is it such a damn shock when it becomes utterly apparent that this is the case?

Now, I am in Virginia. I wrote this post a few weeks ago as I was getting ready to leave. The whole thing stands true. Leaving was ridiculously hard. Suddenly the love and comfort I feel at my childhood home became utterly apparent to me, all at once, like a ton of bricks.

We all go through things like this, and we may think to ourselves, gee golly wiz, why don’t I just make an intention to feel this way, all the time? Stay aware of the impermanence, talk as if I’m about to leave the party, love as if I might never see someone again?

Is it possible? I don’t know. I wish it was.