Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reverb11: The Finale. Looking Back.

Take a moment to think back on your Reverb11 responses. Have you learned anything? What surprised you about this experience? Which of your responses was your favorite?

So I now reached the end of Reverb11. What started off as a way to kill some time in the first few days this month as I was housesitting for my sister, something I assumed I would only take part in occasionally but ended up committing to in whole concludes with this final post. I guess the fact that I posted each days from the 3rd on is one of the surprises of this experiences. I will get to the other surprises in a bit. First, let's break down the final prompt.

Have you learned anything?

I have indeed. I learned, or in the very least was reminded just how prolific a writer I can be, given deadlines and structure. One doesn't always have such things, and I would not want everything I ever write to be confined in the way the Reverb posts were. Yet I can't deny how well I tend to cook with just a little bit more fire under me, as it were. (At least when the writing doesn't involve interviewing other people.)

I learned that I am both on top of some things more than I thought I was, and in need of work in some more things than I thought I was. I am a little darker in places than I realized, and I have the means to examine that. I learned to pay more attention to things happening to me every single day than I tend to do now. I thought I was good at being present, but I learned I can be lacking at that sometimes. 

Also learned was a small degree of detachment from my difficulties. Like anyone I have had and will have ups and downs in regards to how bothered I am about the darker aspects of my life and thoughts. I will find myself bothered more by such again in the future, I have no doubt. Yet it will fade again because by writing about my troubles, fears, and obstacles with the intention of explaining them to others, free of the maudlin language I wanted to make sure I avoided this month, I learned that most of my issues have a looser grip on my throat than I feel sometimes when I am in the heat of the moment. That whether through my own means or the eventual hired help of various types of professionals, the things with which I struggle can in most cases appear much more surmountable when shared in an open, yet modest and efficient nature.

I learned that I am a bit fearful of the future, but I also learned I have the means to make a plan because I am able to look at aspects of the whole from a distance, and react accordingly. I guess I already knew this, but I  learned I can be better at it than I thought.

What surprised you about this experience?

My own candor.

Now being who I am I have never had much of a problem speaking my mind. I tell it like it is, or like it should be, and to hell if the gurus, thought leaders, or Blog Royalty agrees. Nor have I been shy about sharing my bad luck, or my tribulations. (Regardless of many people figuring I had little of either.) I was committed from the inception of this blog to be honest about what I was up to, and feeling. I have maintained that agreement with myself and with readers.

Yet with these Reverb posts, and the previously mentioned detachment some of them brought about, I was able to open up with my readers in a way I am not always so famous for doing. The less obvious, under the surface, emotional motivation for some of how I think and act were revealed with more frequency, and yet more subtlety than I would have expected before this began. I assure you I have retained my privacy when I needed to, yet Reverb provoked in me a frankness that comes from someone unconcerned about personal judgement. Which, biggest surprise of all, I was. Some of the sharing muscles may be a little stiff from lack of use, but despite the fact I have not bared my whole soul, I have bared more than before, and not felt that worried about it. I still feel some guilt and some shame about where I am in life, but for the first time in a while, not so much that I can't mention it to others.

Also I was pleasantly surprised at how appreciative people were of my posts, as well as how many new friends I made in the process of Reverb. I welcome them, and hope they stick around for my future online content.

Which of your responses was your favorite?

I guess it depends on the metric, as is so often the case. There are several posts where I quite enjoyed the prose I came up with. I think some of my best formed lines of non-fiction in years have come about as part of these posts. Sometimes they just flowed and sometimes they took some thought, but in either case I am pleased with the results. Some of my favorite prose among my own writing this month was in Traveling, I think. I am quite satisfied with the metaphors I used there.

Then there are the posts that were my favorites to write. Loathing was great fun to pound out. I also got a kick out of writing the inside jacket blurb for my own, as of yet, not realized book in Author, Author.

The most socially important piece, when viewed with as objective a view as I can muster for my own work was probably Let's Do Lunch, and I almost chose that as my favorite.

Yet in the end, I think Self-Forgiveness is my favorite post from among my own Reverb11 work. It has a little bit of everything in it, from prose I am proud to call my own, personal satisfaction in the composing, a frankness that is the hallmark of Reverb11 as I understand it, and a call to take the most important step we can take in loving other people. Yes. I maintain that if he can begin to truly forgive ourselves, there is little we cannot do for ourselves and for others.

And that, as they say, is that. The temptation is to sum up with some long, sentimental, complex and poetic analysis of the entire experience. Yet I think I will fight with my own inclinations and refrain from doing so. I would hope you could see what each individual post meant to me, and what I was trying to convey in same on the day. Consider it all carefully, and what each prompt as well as the whole Reverb experience meant to me should become clear to you.

In the end, I suppose it was not about each individual stop, but more about the entire month. The journey, as is so often the case, was perhaps the main point of Reverb. And I can think of no better way to end my experience with same then to mention that it was an enlightening and worthwhile journey to me, and I thank each of you for taking it with me.

Happy New Year, and be sure to check back here at Too XYZ in the coming weeks as I announce some exciting changes.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Reverb11: Three Wishes

If a genie could grant you three wishes for 2012, what would they be?

For the sake of this prompt, let us assume two things. First, that the laws of physics cannot be ignored. Things get way too fanciful otherwise. Second,  that the "Monkey's Paw" Effect is suspended. It may seem like a silly thing to point out in this context, but being a writer and story teller, it is difficult to get the reference out of my mind.

So, if the wishes were just wishes, with no negative consequences, mine would be as follows:

1) I would wish that my mother could 100% retire.

Because enough already. These are the years she should be enjoying, not raking together just enough to pay bills all the time. A lifetime or working hard should lead to some point of not having to do so. It doesn't. I hope to have the money to allow her to stop working altogether some day.

2) I would wish for better business sense.

I am right now not that great at marketing, and I need to be if I am to be a full time freelance writer. Or even just a part time one. Or just a novelist. I don't want to change my personality. I refuse to cold call and hard sell and carpet bomb market as many people do. Yet I know there are more respectable ways to market one's self and one's services. I have just been 100% unable to do it. Something is blocked in my mind about it. I hope to fix that on my own of course, in the coming year, at least somewhat. Yet if we are talking wishes, I would wish it to be already done, and in place. Or at least wish for a person to arrive out of nowhere and do it all well for me.

3) I would wish for my own self sustaining theatre company with venue.

Modest stage. Some basic equipment. Dedicated volunteers. Creative control, and no fear. Art for art's sake. Not art that gets altered in just such a way to squeeze a few more dollars out of people so we can turn on the lights and the heat.

Perhaps not the sexiest set of three wishes you will read about. And I am sure if I thought about this prompt every day, I'd come up with different answers everyday. Plus wishes change over time, whether they are fulfilled or not. However, at this moment these wishes would do a great job in setting me on the right road towards fulfillment and peace. They of course would not provide those things, but they would give me some nice tools with which to do the job myself.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reverb11: Shake It Up.

Looking towards 2012, what can you do to shake things up a little next year?

Can one shake things up by tightening one's focus and continuing to pursue that which they have already pursued? Can ridding one's self of extras actually cause a shake up? It sounds like an oxymoron at first. Yet if you consider that often during 2011 I was anxious about so many goals and plans and problems and thereby running around everywhere trying to put out fires all of the time (some of which were actually there), slowing things down could in fact be a ways of shaking things up. I say that because if my mind and spirit are approaching my work and life from a different perspective, things are by definition, shaken up.

I don't mean it will be a year of leisure. Far from it. I will keep time for leisure of course, but 2012 is to be, if I have my way, a year of some intense work. More work on things with which I am good, and familiar, and the hard work of tackling some new, (and necessary) things about which I know little right now. (I beg of you not to call this "stepping outside of my comfort zone", because not only am I unsure this applies, but I am just exhausted with hearing that term.)

When I moved into this spare room in Mom's house, I knew that it would be sink or swim. I have not been here long enough to be certain which it will be. I cannot predict the future. I do however know that if it is to be swim, I will have to in some ways contract my universe, so as to have more control over it, in order to subsequently expand it later. It is this overall theme of contracting in order to expand applies to many plans I have that will certainly shake things up in 2012. I will in a sense be retreating not only more into my own physical room more often, but also more into my own style, my own work and art, and even my own eccentricities at times. (Things against which I think I have too often rebelled in the interest of financial success.)

My friend Becky likened it to Dr. Who's Tardis machine, wherein the inside is somehow bigger than the outside. My life shall expand even as it appears to the outside eye to be smaller, both in terms of time spent in one room locked away working, and the metaphorical focus upon my own brand of life, more free of the judgement of others. (Please know in my life I have watched exactly one full episode of Dr. Who. I had to look up key aspects of the series to fully understand Becky's imagery. But once I did, it worked.)

I mean to delve even deeper into fewer yet more soul strengthening aspects of my existence. Not as some flight of fancy, (though no doubt the business and productivity oriented out there will call it so), but as a matter of health and sanity. It is time to embrace fully that I am Too XYZ, and nourish the things of which I am built. Story telling. Acting. Writing. Spiritual balance. Truth seeking. Greater self-acceptance through self-exploration and examination. Not mere artistic indulgence coupled with navel gazing, but a concerted effort to fully immerse myself in that for which I appear designed in this life. Even if that means I remain a pauper for a while, it will, in theory mean I am at least maintaining my sanity. Sanity brings clarity. Clarity brings options. Options bring confidence. Confidence brings both inward and outward success.

Naysayers to this approach to life abound. On websites, message boards, television, and my own family. I cannot turn them all off, but I can minimize their impact by moving as much of what I am into this spare room/office. To trade in the lack of certain bills that this crucible of comfort provides me in exchange for an intense cocooning into my creative environment. An environment which, I hope, will eventually be a place where I can better my writing, my art, and my business practices. (The latter being by far the most fearful undertaking on this list.) My own pace, in my own way, adopting the ways of others in the small increments I so require, instead of leaping headlong into the vat of Kool-Aid sold by so many gurus.

My goal is not, and indeed my hope is not that I will become a recluse, or hermit. That is no way to be a story teller that affects people's lives, let alone a man of good business. I won't be doing the business card exchanges and the other conventional networking stuff of course, because I never do. Yet I will be making connections in my own way, and making that a priority. I will be changing things in my human relationships department. The frequency, nature, and duration of my connections to people will be shaken up.

As will my concept of time. I plan to focus more on the potent omnipotence that is now, and what I can do with it, more than the unsatisfying what-ifs of the too far future times. I want to build towards a greater, more satisfying personal future with bricks made of the present. They add up, if we pay attention and lay them in their proper order and location. At least that is my theory. And that alone will be a bit of a shake up in the way I have approached such things before.

I will also, as I mentioned, be shaking things up artistically. I have some big artistic news that I will not elaborate upon here, but will announce in multiple ways once the New Year is a few days old. Stay tuned for that, but for now suffice to say that it too should shake things up for me in 2012.

It's all rather counter-intuitive. True, I've never had any problem telling that status quo to get stuffed, and if you read this blog or know me as a person, you can confirm that. Yet I usually do so in advocacy of people or ideas far greater than myself. Now that I plan to direct all of that in service to me for a while, I am not sure how it will all feel. Yet one thing is clear; it will without a doubt shake things up for me in 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reverb11: Self-Forgiveness

(Note: please check out last night's post, if you have not already. It is a corrected post. I read the prompt incorrectly before. T.U.)


What one thing do you need to forgive yourself for this year?

Well, damn. Who would have guessed that I would have answered this prompt in my response to a previous prompt? Yet I have.

Of course, if I had any notion that the subject of forgiveness would be revisited during Reverb, especially as it relates to forgiving myself, I would not have chosen myself as the person who most needed my forgiveness earlier in the month. I would have spoken of someone else.

I thought briefly of writing in this prompt about the someone else I should forgive. The old switcheroo. Yet that seemed tacky.

I have some general thoughts on forgiving one's self though. 

Even the people who appear most forgiving of others can find it almost impossible to forgive themselves of their own trespasses. As my previous forgiveness post indicated, I am one such person with this difficulty.

In the end, I think there are several reason we do not forgive ourselves with the ease we appear to forgive others. None of them healthy. 

To begin with, it's not unlike the reasons doctors make lousy patients. We are so close to the problem, so close to the pain and the guilt, and we think we are so knowledgeable about the source of the discomfort (in this case, our own soul) that we figure we have a handle on it. We not only know our crimes, but our motivations. We are 100% clear on what we were thinking when we commit a sin. That is a luxury we do not have with others who sin against us. At some point we need to either cut them off, or accept that they are telling the truth about their reasons. Yet we have this assumption that our own motivations are so much more horrible than those of others could possibly be.

Yet they are not. They are just more familiar to us. They are so much a part of us we assume we know better than anybody else the things for which we cannot be forgiven. And like the sick doctor who is so sure that his profession makes him uniquely qualified to determine how to heal himself, we lack the distance and perspective to see things as a whole. Which means that we tend to assume we even understand all of our own motivations for doing things. Which of course, we do not. We act out sometimes in ways we cannot explain to ourselves. We are, after all, only human.

Which is another reason why it may be so difficult to forgive ourselves. It confirms we are not only human, but as human as the other people we forgive in the course of our lives. And we may find it uncomfortable to place ourselves in the same species as a few such individuals.

Which means that contrary to the notion we sell ourselves, we are not actually being selfless and humble when we do not forgive ourselves. We are in fact, being quote arrogant. Think of how it really appears when we forgive others and avoid forgiving ourselves:

"You are forgiven because so little is expected of you. But up here in my ivory tower where only the absolute most well developed and pure people with the highest standards live, we cannot get away with such things. I have failed to live up to the lofty standard of my superior race, and hence, I cannot forgive my mistakes they way I forgive yours."

Not an appealing sentiment, is it? Yet if you delve into why you don't feel you earn your own forgiveness, you may find more of this creeping in than you care to admit.

In the end, we are all human. Some people are less evil than others, and that will never change. However in the area of forgiveness it is often easier to forgive the other person than it is to forgive ourselves, because the latter requires us to get dirty and recognize that perhaps we are just a frail, stupid, weak and dark as those we can forgive with ease.

This doesn't mean we live lives without hope. If anything it means that there is more hope than we choose to accept sometimes. That by realizing we have made mistakes, but that those mistakes are for the most part not much worse than the mistakes many people in our lives make, we come to understand that commonality between us and others. And if we work hard at it, we can perhaps find it easier to forgive both ourselves and others when we consider it from this standpoint.

In the end, it is about love, for ourselves and for others. Can we truly love a person we have not forgiven? If not, we had better get on with forgiving ourselves before we try to forgive others.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reverb11: Author, Author.

Share with us the title and inside jacket cover of the book you would most like to write.

Now that I have the prompt done correctly, (I didn't before,) I am still faced with a difficult task. Asking a writer what book he would most like to write is probably a bit like asking a baseball player which particular seat he would like his home run to land in. It's swinging for the fence and scoring that is of the utmost. Plus, the book I "most" wanted to write recently is already in the process of being revised, so I am not sure that counts. So I'll make a deal with you; I will answer the prompt with one of the ideas I have for the future. Just remember, there are several where this came from. I can't put it on a pedestal above the others. But at any rate...

by Ty Unglebower

Chester Andrews, the popular and respected Vice-President of the United States has but one major public appearance remaining before leaving office after two terms; to deliver a speech to the party's election year National Convention. Despite many pleas from all over the country, Andrews, 67, has no desire to seek the presidency. The speech, both a defacto endorsement of the party's nominee, Senator Harris Gruber, as well as a first step in his own farewell to public life, is a rousing success with both convention delegates and the punditcracy.

Yet Vice-President Andrews barely has his shoes off in his bedroom after the short flight from Madison Square Garden in New York when he gets the unthinkable news; President Jacob Turner has suffered a massive heart attack. The fears of both Andrews and the nation are realized when three days later, the President is dead, and with a mere six months remaining in his tenure in office, Andrews is elevated to the presidency. 

Now the job Andrews never sought is his for six months. And with war brewing in the Middle East, a recalcitrant Speaker of the House with his own Presidential aspirations, and a now hobbled party nominee that believes he can assert influence over affairs of state before winning the election, newly sworn in President Andrews may find those six months more of a trial than the seven and a half years of his immediate and beloved predecessor. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reverb11: Music Is Powerful

Think of one song that you turn to time and again and describe why it's important to you.

As with so many such prompts, the list of possible answers is considerable for me. For how does one choose between so many songs that one goes back to over and over? What is the metric? The most powerful lyrics? The most moving music? Or is it simply a matter of describing a song I listen to with a high degree of frequency?

So many inspiring songs in my collection. So many songs to which I have rocked out many times throughout life. So many beautiful lyrics or stunning arrangements. A few songs posses more than one of the above qualities. It will seem ridiculous to not have picked any number of songs when all is said and done, because I go back to so many of them so often.

I have opted in the end, however, to describe the song that has been a song I go back to for as long as I can remember. The song that seems to be in the background of my consciousness even if it has been a long while since I have listened to it. The song that in many ways, (as one of the first songs I ever knew, and loved) serves as the cornerstone of my entire musical aspect of my personality. Like a literal cornerstone, my eclectic musical tastes have been built up from and around this song for my entire life. It isn't front and center, but it is always there deep within me doing its job.

I am referring to Country Roads by John Denver.

The song is no virtuoso accomplishment, from either a technical or artistic standpoint. I do believe John Denver was a good poet, by and large. An accomplished songwriter who obviously touched millions of people. Yet strictly speaking Country Roads isn't even Denver's own best song, in terms of compositional difficulty or lyrical potency. It was never ground breaking, but that is not why I select it.

And it isn't that I have a huge esteem for West Virginia itself, despite having many friends there, and having lived no further than 15 minutes from its border at any time in life. (The song even inspired an essay of mine on this subject, entitled, "The Place I Almost Belong, West Virginia.) I don't care for the politics, religion, or general feel of most of West Virginia. I am not a fan of the terrain when I have to drive in it to see certain friends. Now in general, despite my objections to a lot of its culture, I bare no hatred for West Virginia. Yet I have no desire to move there.

So, why do I select for this post what some consider the unofficial state song of West Virginia? To begin with, personal history. I have no memory of not knowing this song. I was listening to it in infancy, thanks to Mom. This is the song I wanted my friends to like as a child, because it would mean that something important to me actually meant something to other people. Having my friends like this song would mean that I was not as alien and unlovable as I always felt. Kids of course did not love this song. Ever. They disliked me even more for ever daring to reveal I liked it. It was "lame". It was "slow". It was only for "old people", or "retarded people".

So I spent most of my childhood alone. (No surprise there.) And when alone, whether my mood be celebratory or anxious, whether I was preparing for bed, or trying to pretend I wasn't afraid of what would happen to my oldest sister in the hospital when she needed emergency surgery to deliver my first two nieces, I would listen to the album with Country Roads on it. Along with other music, and other artists. Yet that song always seemed to be the front door into a musical session.

Years go by and tastes change, somewhat. While I don't think a person can truly ever get away from the foods, areas and music with which they grew up, people do begin to expand their horizons. Venture further away from that which is familiar in hopes of understanding a broader sloth of the human experience. We seek out other cultures, other genres of writing, other sources of music in pursuit of new feelings. Or fresh catalysts for the familiar ones. We fall in and out of love with new sounds, growing weary of some fads, while adding other songs to our permanent collections. Yet still, the seeds of what we experienced as our "firsts" almost always remain to some degree.

Through many dangers toils and snares I have listened to music. Not always John Denver, but he is often one of my considerations when flipping through the collections of music to choose a mood. Because the song seems to transcend any given mood. The lyrical longing fits in with a melancholy. The harmonies work well to soothe in jittery times. Yet the tempo is just upbeat enough to provide a toe tap when needed as a pick me up. And of course, despite being about a state, it is in the end a love song, so I turned to it many a time when I found myself in what I foolishly at the time determined to be love. A song for all seasons indeed.

I have often felt that if a song plays in the light tunnel through which many believe we pass after death on the way to the next world, mine would be Country Roads. So deeply ingrained into every aspect of my consciousness has that song been, for song a long period of time, I can think of no more appropriate human tune to transition me forever away from the things of being human at the end of my time on the earth. The song I would listen to most in life to get me quickly back into shape when feeling out of sorts. To make me feel well when I got sick.

Sometimes I go months without listening to it. Yet I have owned Country Roads in some form my entire life. The record my mother played for me in my crib was eventually sat on and broken in two during a family party. (It was the only record I was allowed to handle as a child. I'd play it all the time at Christmas, as a celebration of the season, and to this day it even reminds me of Christmas a bit.) I was about six when it got broken. It was as though a friend moved away. Worse. It was as though an imaginary friend had moved away. So much so Mom purchased the same album, this time on the far more durable cassette format, a mere few weeks later. A cassette I had with me into young adulthood, playing to thinness.

The CD was located for me in time for Christmas one year, and I have had the CD to this day. (Transferring the song on a regular basis onto an MP3 player for walks and such.) I don't know what the next music format will be in the future. But I do know that whatever form it takes, one of the first purchases of it I will make will be of Country Roads.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Reverb11: Memorable Gifts

What is the most memorable gift you have ever received?

How appropriate and yet open-ended a prompt for Christmas Day. So many answers, depending on the criteria used. Even just within the boundaries of "memorable" lie all kinds of definitions, yielding any number of possible answers.

Some years you get exactly something you had on your list. Sometimes it is a total, wonderful surprise you had not even thought of yourself. And it need not be a large or expensive gift, either. One year the best gift I got was one simple Greatest Hits CD filled with songs I loved.

I am going to go, though, with a gift that required the most thought, and hence is the most memorable in that regard. It is a ball point pen.

Not just any ball point pen, though. It is a ball point pen fashioned out of an antler. And antler from the final deer my father ever hunted. My father died when I was seven years old.

Mom had it done. While my father was not obsessed with hunting, he did enjoy it. I do not hunt, but always think of my father when I think of hunting. So a connection with that aspect of my father's recreational life, for which I was far too young when he died, represents a nice connection with my father.

It was especially thoughtful because it was a pen. It could have been a figurine, or a lamp or something, and would have retained it's sentimental value in my eyes. Yet Mom in her wisdom chose to make it a pen. Practical, because I am often looking for a nice pen with which to do certain thing. And symbolic, because being a writer, I make frequent use of a pen. Not to write drafts, but certainly to write notes, and outlines and the occasional letter. The pen is too special to carry with me all the time, as I fear I would lose it. Yet I don't want it to be an icon, and hence too precious to be used. So I use it for writing I do within the safe confines of my room. Outlines. Letters. Some miscellaneous planning and listing. The exciting and the mundane. The point being to make regular use of something that in some tangential way connects me to my father and his leisure.

It had been out of ink for a while, and mom replaced the cartridge for Christmas this year, and gave it to me early so I could use the pen again. It's nice to have it back, and since it is a gift from my mother, it will in some ways always connect me to both of my parents.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reverb11: Somebody Has To Say It

Somebody has to say it...

The prompt for today came with the suggestion that it be just one sentence. So, here is mine, which I find appropriate for Christmas Eve:

Some of the most Christ-like people , now in through history, have not been Christians.

Enjoy your visions of sugar plums tonight, my friends.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reverb11: Travel

Did you visit anywhere new this year? Any plans to travel next year?

In May I traveled to Jersey City, New Jersey to attend a friend's birthday party. (In that case though, "party" doesn't begin to cover it. Birthday Bash, perhaps.)

I have been to New Jersey before, but not that part of it. I didn't know much about Jersey City, and Hoboken, and all of those places, though of course I had heard of them. If there is such a thing as "small town big city" life, I think the places I visited while in New Jersey would qualify. I remember shopping at one point, and this street we were walking down had all kind of store keepers selling things on the sidewalks outside of their store. Fruit and vegetable stands, and that sort of thing. I admit to not thinking much about it before that time, but part of me sort of assumed that you couldn't really find city streets like that in this country anymore. Not that there is never an odd fruit stand here and there, but the idea of blocks-long lines of eclectic local merchandise being sold by an even more eclectic mosaic of people from all over the world, literally) I figured was just about gone in 2011. It was encouraging to see it was not. At least not in Jersey City.

I had falafel for the first time while I was there. From a shop in the city with just two tables inside. I enjoyed the meal quite a bit, and hope to have some of it again someday. I learned that the tiny shop, (the name of which I cannot remember) has some kind of rivalry going on with another tiny falafel shop on the other side of the city. (Or it may have been in a nearby city, I also cannot remember that exact fact either.) But that amused me for some reason.

Then there was Hoboken. We weren't in Hoboken much. I wish time would have allowed a longer stay there. For some reason I think I would have enjoyed hanging around Hoboken the most out of the places in New Jersey I went to. That's no disrespect to Jersey City, but Hoboken, or at least the parts I saw, spoke to me a bit more, if you will. Downtown at least had a certain presence that appealed to me specifically. I'd love to be able to elaborate on that, but I can't. Again, maybe if I had been able to absorb more of it. The best I can say is that there seemed to be an almost equal mix of past and present that you don't always see in cities of comparable size. Even other cities in New Jersey.

One thing I did get to experience in Hoboken probably had nothing to do with it being Hoboken, per se, though it was without a doubt an Urban New Jersey experience. It took place when we went to get the beer for the party at this huge beer warehouse. It was literally a warehouse you drove into. Cases of beer everywhere. While I waited I counted no less that 25 varieties of brew just within my eyesight. A crew of maybe five guys in overalls and hand trucks moved the beer hither and yon. They were my favorite part of my brief stay at the warehouse. They should have their own reality show on television.

Not that I watch those kind of shows in general, but this group of guys were, (at least from my outsider's perspective) sort of like New Jersey personified. Not like those Jersey Shore assholes, but true, working class, sarcastic and blunt Jersey. Though you aren't supposed to stereotype people, they did say many things and did so with accents that one associates with the area. Most of what I heard from this colorful crew came from the guy I assume was the floor supervisor.  "Hey, why is case of Milla still sitting ova heeya?" He didn't appear to be happy as he asked this question. The Miller was not there much longer, though the yelling and snappy repartee between the workers remained.

I did spend a few hours in New York City itself, which of course is nearby. As always I enjoy getting to see Manhattan. Yet we were in area I had never been to before. Far from the usual tourist infested areas. On our way to and back from dinner and the short film festival we attended, I saw many sites that were also in the "small town big city" category. New York City is of course immense, but when you get as deep into Manhattan as we were, (we had gone on for so long I thought for sure we were in a different borough) it was like a different city. It's own neighborhood. (And again, my apologies, I don't know which part of Manhattan we were in.)

Local basketball tournaments under the evening lights in a park. Old buildings from a bygone era with their ornate architecture housing things like Starbucks and Apple outlets. Art. Bars and taverns. All lit street lamps, not by the glaring, ever present fluorescence of Times Square and Broadway. I love Times Square and Broadway, but I got a lot out of my time spent in the deeper parts of the borough, where the garish, manufactured, though intoxicating enormity of the famous hot spots faded away to reveal a slightly foreign (to me) but nonetheless more relatable and accessible humanity. The "everyday" of New York City, if that makes any sense.

Sometimes you can "learn" something you already knew. A concept can begin to dawn on you when you experience it first hand in a way it never could when it was just a concept of which you were aware intellectually. I of course knew there was more to New York City that the swarming, glitzy, warp speed mass of neon illuminated homo-sapiens that is Lower Manhattan. Yet that has been the only part of New York I had ever been to. This trip in May reminded me that even that city is made up of millions upon millions of regular people living lives not that unlike my own in scope, even if they differ greatly in culture and attitude.

If I do travel in 2012, (and I would like to, but money is an issue), I'd like a chance to experience some more of that everyday neighborhood flavor. Both in this country, and in other countries. (The United Kingdom in particular.) Where people are not quite as anonymous. Where it's clear that the neighborhood is an extension of the citizens within, as opposed to the masses of people crashing like so many ocean waves to be broken on the rocky coast of a nebulous downtown megatropolis.

Please do not misunderstand me. There are many big cities I long to see for the first time, (Boston, New Orleans, London), and some I want to see again (Seattle, Chicago, and yes, New York City.) I love the hugeness of a major city. The lights. The sound of traffic. The adventure and the site seeing. I'd never want to be denied that kind of experience. Yet in the meantime, (or perhaps, with the right guide, while I am in those big cities), I want to make sure I see more neighborhoods like the ones I saw back in May.

Do you live in one? Perhaps I will visit you next. If your town has falafel.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reverb11: Passion

If you could quit your day job and your quality of life wouldn't change, what would you do?

I do have to say upfront that I am not currently at my ideal quality of life. I am not in hell, but I want and need some things to improve. Part of that improvement will be contingent upon how will my freelance reboot goes in 2012. So I will approach this prompt as though it were asking me if I could have my as yet unrealized ideal quality of life, and hold on to it without working.

That being said, I am a story teller. I would spend almost all of my time facilitating the telling of stories. Stories to move, to entertain, to illicit thought, to frighten, to comfort. Stories of being human, or what it should be to be so. I excel at doing this in two ways. Through my writing, and through my work in the theatre. And despite the fact that I spend a great deal of time on both now, (I am a freelance writer after all), the lack of needing money all the time would open up avenues of pursuit that right now are not as attainable I dare say.

For starters, I'd spend more time researching and experiencing the things that can help a writer become a better story teller, outside of the words themselves. Traveling. Visiting museums. Attending shows and concerts. (I am a firm believer that participating in one of the arts improves one's ability in the others.) Some days I am sure I would just spend pacing about working out a plot, or once in a while a specific sentence. I do this a bit now and I know it takes up more time than it should for this freelancer. But with money being no object I could be more at ease to do so.

The prompt doesn't mention if I have unlimited money in this alternate universe, or if simply my quality of life doesn't suffer once I quit my job. But assuming I can live my life at leisure because of money, in addition to my greater focus on writing my own way, I would either buy some kind of medium sized theatre venue, or buy another building and convert it into same, for the sake of housing my own theatre company. A company that despite my resources would remain modest in means and accoutrements, but big on material, talent and dedication. One that I could build, mold, and run according to my vision of theatre. A company I could take around to other venues for visiting performances, while hosting the performances of others in my venue.

I'd spend my time promoting, brainstorming, writing, acting, connecting, directing, and just in general creating art by way of this company and this venue. And of course my time running the theatre would inform my writing, and my writing would inform my acting/theatre work. Art nourishing art, creating a product in both cases into which I can pour my heart and mind, and subsequently offer to the community at large for their betterment. Their enjoyment. Their enlightenment.

And to do so without guilt. The guilt of being in debt. Of struggling to pay bills. Of writing things in my own pace instead of according to a deadline. The guilt of...well you understand by now. Pursuing the passions within my spirit without feeling the need to justify it. Truth be told, I have gotten better at just doing what it is to be me without explanation in the last few years. I even said once I'd rather be a pauper and a story teller than a self sufficient man with a cubicle. Not sexy to most people, but it is closer to being authentic than anything else.

Yet I would be lying if I said that guilt hadn't held back my art somewhat even now. I hope that I don't have to become rich in order for me to finally feel free to be the story teller I want to be and can be, in both writing and theatre. Hopefully I can find a way to do make these contributions without having to abandon the idea of making any money. I believe I can.

Yet in this little fantasy, money is not an issue, and therefore writing and theatre, and the auxiliary things that improve those arts, would take up the lion's share of my time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reverb11: Party Time

Tell us about the "best" party you attended this year.

Despite not being much of a "party person", I did attend a few this year. Some were huge, mind blowing affairs, the likes of which I have rarely seen. Others were more modest. Each had their own appeal. But if I had to choose the best one, I think I would go with one of the smaller ones I attended at a local friend's house back in April.

I have known members of this family in one way or another for the better part of ten years. Over those years I came to know the other members. I am simpatico with some of them in a number of ways, especially in regards to introversion. Back in the spring, I had, with much fanfare, just finished the rough draft of my novel. On schedule. Always supportive of me and my endeavors, a few of my friends in this family suggested I come over to their house the following week, for some drink, food, and camaraderie, in celebration of my writing accomplishment. Touched by their consideration and generosity, I accepted.

The party itself was low-key. One or two other people outside of the family did show up, but it was mostly just me and the family. They asked me about my book, what the next step was, and what it had been like to write it. How it felt to achieve the rough draft. More than once one of them told me that just finishing the draft was an accomplishment that most people only talk about, but never actually achieve. I am still not sure if the act of finishing a draft is as worthy of the gracious praise they bestowed upon me that night, but I appreciated it quite a bit, nonetheless.

Some people are drawn most to the parties that are the biggest, the loudest, the most expensive, the most well stocked with refreshment. Some are drawn to the hosts, or the venue, or other expected guests. Each of those things, and more are legitimate metrics to determine the success of a party. Yet for me, it was the spirit and purpose for this party that made it my best in 2011.

The fact that friends of mine opened their home and offered their food to me for the specific purpose of taking an interesting and celebrating an accomplishment that was so personally significant to me says a lot about them. And a lot about that party. Outside of my own mind, it was the first and thus far most demonstrative expression as to the importance of my writing the draft. Outsiders looking in may not have judged it to be a great party, but I have rarely appreciated a celebration more than I did that one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reverb11: Friendship

What kind of friend were you in 2011? What kind of friend do you want to be in 2012?

It is hard to determine what kind of friend I was in 2011, exactly. You would probably have to consult my friends for their take on this question. I assume, as far as quality is concerned, I must have been a fairly good one to at least some portion of people I know, otherwise I would not have gotten such a moving response to my difficulties as often as I did. True, some people could have responded out of pure altruism, but not that many in one group of people, I dare say. I am grateful either way, but I have gathered one has to be a good friend to have good friends.

Yet if by "kind" the prompt refers to what type of friend I was, I suppose I'd have to say the invested kind. The friend who works at understanding what makes the other people tick, and knowing how their most important issues at the moment are unfolding. Their projects, their hobbies, their health, etc. The friend who asks many questions about the nature of what someone is doing, and what the goal is. The friend who makes as many constructive, or at least aesthetic observations about the things that matter most to any given friend at any given moment.

I try to educate myself on what my friends are living.

I'd like to continue to do that in 2012, of course. But I would also like to be the friend that is called upon in the middle of the night, or for the unique help he can bring. I want to be the friend of action as much as I am the friend of words and sentiment. To an extent this requires a choice by my friends to let me in and have those chances to make a direct difference through action. (Not that expressing support is not action. It is. But one can be more confident in having made a difference if he is directly taking a specific, outward action sometimes, I think.)

Which means I may have to be less ambiguous. I may have to work a little harder on letting people know how I feel a little more often. And I might have to risk losing a friend here or there by honestly expressing larger concerns. There is a time for tact and for holding one's tongue, but I'd like to be better at saying the bold thing that needs to be said for the good of the person in 2012.

A friend that both loves, and challenges, but only when needed.

Hopefully 2012 will not bring much need to do that, but will bring my ability to make that decision during the times it actually does arise.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reverb11: Acts of Generosity

Tell us about a time this year that you were moved by the generosity of another.

Would it be selfish or lack creativity to answer this prompt by mentioning my own friends and myself? If so, I may have to live with the label, because without a doubt, it is generous actions of about a dozen of my friends in particular that fits the bill best for this prompt this year.

They were generous with their time and support when about eight weeks ago I mentioned in a rather public manner, (Facebook updates) that I was in the midst of a difficult, trying time. That I in no way expected anyone to do anything about my situation, but that I wanted people to at least be aware of it, so if they were inclined, they could send me the proverbial "good vibes".

And send them they did. Not just mentally, either. I got emails, Facebook messages, comments on the status, texts and even a few tweets from a select group of people who wanted right away only to help me in some manner. I got invitations to visit, well wishes, reminders of my importance, (to them and to the world at large), suggestions for how to proceed and professions of love. It was all quite uplifting to me.

This is not to say that those who didn't respond directly are lesser people, or even that they care about me less. Yet given that a simple word or two, or even no response at all because of the potential awkwardness would have been the easier thing to do, the fact that that select few took the time, energy, and thought into offering me their support and love was, in my mind, quite generous. Especially when in some cases I had not known the concerned party for an extended period of time. I found it moving that someone would put forth the effort, even without knowing me at such an intimate level as some of my other friends do.

Yes, I was the beneficiary in this case. One may wonder if I would have been so moved had the affection been directed at someone else. The answer is, yes. If I could in some way be made aware that people were putting forth a sincere effort and taking time out of their days to remind someone other than me that they were going to be all right, and that loved ones were never more than a phone call or text away, I like to believe I would have still been moved. A person's time and emotional energy are commodities that I feel are not easily parted with, and that is what makes the sharing of same so generous.

Sure we can all click a "Like" on Facebook without much thought, or shoot off a "Sorry to hear that" message, without much investment. I got a few of those as well. However, to think about a response, tailor it to the recipient's personality and situation, without pandering or condescending? That is something that can't just be shot off in a moment. It requires a willful, gracious bestowing of sentiment upon the needy soul. That is a choice that is made. A gift that is given. A generous gift at that, and I would be moved by anyone I witnessed taking such time to add depth to their responses.

So I thank my friends for their generosity, the most moving example of such I have witnessed this year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reverb11: Let's Do Lunch.

If you could have lunch with anybody, who would it be and what would you like to discuss?

An age old prompt that people have been asking almost as long as there have been lunches. And so many possible ways to look at it. Is it anybody living or dead, entering the realm of the impossible? Can it be a fictional character, thus entering the realm of fantasy? Certainly famous people are the most common answer one way or the other, despite the low likelihood of ever dining with them. The prompt itself doesn't specify perimeters.

Plus, knowing me, I am unlikely to have lunch with anybody unless I know them fairly well already. I'm a reserved introvert who doesn't do much conventional networking after all. I don't often do lunch with total strangers, and any friends with whom I could possibly have lunch have at some point already joined me in same. As much as I would love to lunch with my friends again, that seems to be an uninteresting source of potential mealtime companions within the context of this prompt.

Though I like to think I would not be star struck into silence, given the chance to prepare for a meal with a celebrity I admired, there are all kinds of famous people I would love a chance to converse with over a meal. Actors. A few athletes. A writer here and there. I think it would be impossible for me to pick one single individual with whom I would long to have lunch and conversation above all others. So instead of trying to pick the most intriguing celebrity option, I will go with a more down to earth but nonetheless desirous partner. One that in this context is anonymous.

I'd sit down to lunch with an American Muslim. I don't know any devout Muslims in this country personally. And while I know in my heart I am not a Muslim, nor could I be one, I would want to sit down with one first and foremost to discuss how they feel. How they are doing personally, emotionally, and spiritually in a climate that seems to me more committed to their destruction, or at least their subjugation, with each passing day. I wish to be the set of ears and open mind in person for them that I suspect they have found lacking in society as a whole over the last several years. I'd want them to tell me if they are angry, forgiving, confused, hurt, or perhaps even unfazed by the way so many vocal elements of our society view and speak of Islam.

I'd also want to hear about the people who have not succumbed to the bigotry and ignorance that associates the religion itself with terrorism. (There is zero connection.) I would ask where they have found American non-Muslims who treated them with dignity and respect, when earned. I'd be even more interested in examples of such people who belonged to other religions. Those who know that respect is earned by an individual person, not denied based on a warped interpretation of an entire demographic.

I'd want to know if they, the Muslim, being on the bad end of this witch hunt, have any reason to be optimistic about the United States. I'd want to know from them what they think can be done. I'd ask of this to satisfy my own need to find hope about the future of my society.

Finally if it would be of any use, I would do my best to convey to them that I see them as personally guiltless in terrorist acts that have affected my country. That I see Islam as blameless in same, and that while not adhering to the tenants of Islam, I find nothing threatening about them doing so. I doubt they require my exhortations of magnanimity in order to feel complete, yet I hope hearing them would provide at least a minor salve to some of the possible pain they feel.

I'd mention that these problems are beyond me in such a system, and that the only things I could see myself doing that would counteract any of it would be having more lunches like our lunch, and encouraging others so do to when they could. To resist my potent desire at times to retaliate with my own vilification of certain other religions that I see as stoking the anti-Islamic fires in this country. To nonetheless speak out against rumors and untruths that are sold as fact and history. To educate myself even further so I could be even more effective at this. And of course to keep in mind any suggestions they may have for cooling the increasing heat over religion that is scorching the earth of this country.

It may not be a comfortable lunch. It may not be the most upbeat meal time conversation that either me or my companion would ever have. Yet if it were the right companion, that would be patient with my conversational idiosyncrasies and such, I can think of fewer lunches with greater potential to effect those certain parts of my soul more effectively.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reverb11: Loathing

Who or what do you loathe, and how have your expressed that in 2011?

A simple prompt that the author suggested be taken lightly, so as to step back from the sometimes serious, introspective nature of Reverb11 in general. This means I could possibly answer this in a million ways, but I will narrow it down and indeed have some fun with this.

I loathe the fandom of three specific sports teams, as much as I loathe the teams themselves. The teams are the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the New York Yankees.

Notice I say the fandom, and not the fans themselves, though I hate a good share of them as well. But I have friends who cheer for some of these teams, so I won't single out individual people for hate. But the overall concept of fandom for these various packs of assholes? Fair game.

Let's start with "Steeler Nation". I'm not sure what exactly illicits the hatred from within me. The lard-ass bum of a quarterback with questionable sexual proclivities? That ever present shampoo shiller Troy Polamalu with his obnoxious horse mane hairdo? Those ubiquitous rags that are too ugly to use even as emergency toilet paper and yet are treated like Holy Relics? The borderline mass delirium among them which causes them to believe that the Steelers are somehow the only team ever called for penalties, when they actually get away with more penalties than any other team in American history? The endless shifting of responsibility when they get their asses kicked (bad calls, Troy was out)? The Deschapelle Coup of claiming to be better than the world when they win with a backup quarterback, but being the first to blame the back up quarterback if they lose? The insistence, regardless of how they perform in the post season that they are the best franchise in the history of football?

Oh yeah, it's all of those.

I am a Baltimore Ravens fan, and so I find all of it particularly loathsome. Yet if you know football you know you don't have to root for Baltimore in order to hate the Steelers. Because the Steelers are worthy of hate. A hate they claim to welcome and love, but whine and bitch about. They complain incessantly the minute anybody expresses even the slightest bit of contempt or criticism of their team, their plays, their front office, Mike Tomlin, Heinz Field, or anything remotely connected to any of the above. For a team that loves to be hated, they sure do a lot of bitching when the trash talk comes their way.

I expressed this loathing this year by talking up on Facebook how Baltimore swept them this season. I may in the future express this by buying a terrible towel to use as that cloth everyone needs to tie around a slightly leaky pipe somewhere in the house.

Now let's talk about the Dallas Cowboys. A team I hated before I even watched football, because growing up in Maryland, you have to hate the Cowboys. It started with the idea that they are Washington's arch rivals, even though I don't pay much attention to the Redskins anymore. But the arrogance of the franchise, even when their record is dismal, keeps the hate alive.

There have been billionaires more arrogant, unpleasant, and weasel-like than Jerry Jones...but not many. The man acts like the world owes him another Super Bowl. An arrogance that carries over into the team's unsubstantiated and vilified nickname "America's Team". Few things that are American bare any resemblance to anything so Texan as the Dallas Cowboys.

Making it worse is the fact that the largest population outside of Dallas of jackasses rooting for the Cowboys can be found in Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas. Natives of this geographical location. Meaning of course that 90% of "authentic" Cowboys sports bars nestled into the suburbs of Silver Spring, Maryland and other such places consist purely of people that chose a football team specifically for the purpose of giving the middle finger to everyone around them. They didn't come from Dallas, have nobody in Dallas, and no plans to move anywhere near Dallas. They root for the Cowboys because more than they love football they love to cause trouble, get into bar fights, and scream at the top of their longs, "I'm independent, rugged, and individualistic! I root for Dem Cowboys even in the shadow of FedEx field and I am proud of it!"

Kind of like the guy with the really loud motorcycle that blasts through small towns rattling windows is proud of his "masculinity". No compensation being made there. I expressed this loathing this year by giving the New York Giants a standing ovation when they blocked Dallas' final field goal in week 14, handing them a much deserved loss.

Finally, we have the Bronx Bastards, I mean, the Bronx Bombers. The New York Yankees. I loathe everything about them, and I don't even watch baseball.

Yankee fans also have a touch of the Steeler Nation, Love/Hate relationship with being hated. They claim they love the insults but can't ever keep their mouths shut about them. They strut about claiming they do their talking on the field, but fans wouldn't shut up about defending their team if the ghost of Babe Ruth himself showed up and told them to put a sock in it.

 They thrive on how much other teams hate them, but anything I have written here in this column would get me murdered in New York, and will probably illicit nasty comments here on the blog. That's because try as they may to be "too talented to care", nothing gets up a Yankee fan's ass quicker than simply saying something like, "Piss on the Yankees." If violence doesn't ensue, a loud, bloated, rambling, borderline incoherent defense of all things that have ever or will ever come out of New York City will follow. (As though the totality of New York itself is encapsulated best, and exclusively by one of two baseball teams within its borders.)

I actually stopped being friends with a guy who turned the fact that I hate the Yankees into the fact that I wouldn't have to if I ever knew what it was like to take pride in where I lived. That only those from New York City can know what it is to love a city immersed in culture, history, and some of the greatest parades in all of the post-World War II era. And of course, better than all of that, they have the Yankees.

I'd pay money to be present when such people tell citizens of Boston they have no idea what it is like to love a city, and embrace its history and culture. Let them then tell people in Chicago. In Los Angeles. Or any number of I don't know, hundreds of cities anywhere on earth. Yankee fans, you love your city and your ball team. This makes you somehow unique in the world? You haven't even been World Champions in two years, and you claim superiority over not only all other teams, but all other cities?  If your team is that great and you love to be insulted so much, why not convert some of that energy into explaining the choke for which your team has been so famous the last few years? Sounds like some people are a little insecure.

Especially when we go back further than two years ago. Yankee fans are the biggest legacy whores in the history of professional sports. No matter how often you watch Jeter choke the team right out of the post-season, I have to hear some New Yorker spew off about how many times the Yankees have won the world series lifetime. How nobody has won more titles than they have all together. How yeah, they may be watching this year, (and last year's) World Series on TV, but how many times has any other team won five championships in a row? Zing!

My response? How many times have the Yankees achieved such a feat since Ike left the White House? Answer: zero. More than half of the Yankees who were part of that dynasty are now dead. How long do you get to claim any kind of team superiority on the backs of men who were in their prime before color television was available? If you want to play that card, on behalf of Maryland, I claim the Orioles superior, because when they were a minor league team, they had on their roster none other than Babe Ruth.

But I will cut you some slack, Yankee Nation. Tell me about the last time your team just went back to back as World Series victors. What's that? You say that last happened when the Y2K bug was a news story?

All that matters to most people is what the team did this year. And if you are anything but a Yankee or Ranger fan, you congratulate the Cardinals this year for winning one of the biggest come back World Series victories in history. If you are a Yankee fan, you stand there the minute the Yankees are eliminated from contention, accuse the world of being intimidated by your team's non-existent swagger, and count off on your fingers:

"Hey, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson..." 

When they finish listing 20 minutes later they will say something tot he effect of;  "They will be remembered for all time. Who the Cards got ? Nobody will be talking about them in 50 years."

Yeah, and nobody will be listening to you trying to win today's argument by talking up the 1950 ALCS. Fuget about it. Your team not only has choked more than once in recent years, but is filled with some of the most unpleasant athletes in all of baseball.

I of course only hate them because they win, right Yankee fans? Even though I don't hate the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals anymore than I hate the 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. I don't hate teams because they win. I hate them because they are staffed with jerks who console themselves after their teams latest choke job by trying to convince each other that legacy, name, and "swagger" are more important to anybody than winning the whole thing. They're not, and never will be.

I expressed this loathing earlier this year by, as I said, deleting a colleague right off of my Facebook, after it would seem he had to focus on a jealousy within me that simply wasn't there. He invented it to have something to attack me with, because defending the New York Yankees of this generation was, it would seem, too difficult a task.

So there you have it. Some things I loathe and how I expressed same in 2011. The author was right; I did have fun with that.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reverb11: Community?

Online and in real life we're all part of a multitude of communities. Tell us about one that moves you.

For the first time during this Reverb11, I think I have to flat out cheat. (That is assuming you don't find some of my previous answers cheating.) I will begin that cheating, (that is to say, sidestepping the prompt) with this provocative, and controversial statement; I am a part of no community that moves me.

To lessen the blow that I am sure many readers will feel that statement delivers, let me mention what this doesn't mean.

It doesn't mean I have no friends. It doesn't indicate there have been no noteworthy people enter my life, either online of offline in 2011. It is not a refusal to take part in communities. Nor is it casting any aspersions upon those who are a member of a community that moves them.

What it does mean is that I have not had a great deal of luck with becoming a solid, important and valued member of a community. Since I am not a hermit, I am by default a member of some communities, but do they move me? Am I made to feel welcomed, protected, supported or loved by any of them in particular? Do I find their mission to be inspiring in its own right? The astonishing and depressing answer is no.

"That's bullshit. I happen to know a few communities of which you are a member that you could talk about for this prompt. Based on your writings and the fact that I am in some of the same communities, I know this isn't an accurate statement you make."

The above is the generic version of the response I anticipate from some people who read this. Yet consider my preemptive answers in each case.

The blogging community. I am in it, and have met some people through it. But I am not a powerhouse within it. My readership, though at times pleasing, is by no means impressive, and is usually without comment and anonymous. I appreciate all patronage, but without comments, or with comments that are anonymous, I can't really call that a "community". Plus the blogging community, like Twitter, is so nebulous, it isn't really defined by one set of rules, norms, or missions. So I am in the blogging community, but not of it, as it were.

The theatre community. It is a large part of my life. Has been for years. I blog about it even. (Did you know that?) I have been in many shows, often with the same people. Certainly in the same area. I volunteer for a theatre wherein I do most of my theatre work. It is not the same theatre where five years ago I did most of my stuff, and that is part of the point; I have never truly been assimilated as a full fledged, appreciated, loved and accepted member of a specific community theatre, or the community OF theatre in general. Don't get me wrong, I have made a lot of friends through theatre. Good friends. Lots of excellent individual people. Many fine individual productions. Yet meeting friends through theatre doesn't mean the community itself is a moving one, and for me it is not.

Now theatre can be that way. Supportive. Loving. Creative. And there are people in my group who are ingrained into the fabric of any given theatre in the area. Yet I myself am not. I don't know if it is because I lack networking skills, or that once I step off of the stage I don't make much of an impression on anybody personally. But I can't get my own projects off the ground, get boards and directors to collaborate with me very often, and in general don't feel overall warmth from the theatres of which I have been a part.

That is not to say there are no warm decent people involved with any of them. There are. Again, it is not so much the individual here and there, but the community as a whole that eludes me. In some cases, the pettiness, competitiveness, arrogance, fear of change, and other such negative traits in arts organizations tend to outweigh other aspects too often for me and my personality to make much of a dent in the way of "community".

I am a good actor, and have been in some great shows and met some great people. Yet in the end, I am on the outside looking in when I am not in a show, and sometimes even then. I move about within the theatre community, but I am not personally moved by it. (Though I would like to be of course.)

The writing community. People bristle at this the most, because they find it impossible that I could have been a blogger, writer, and tweeter for so long, and yet not have found at least some branch of the writing community by which I could be moved, loved and accepted. Yet again, like theatre, I have met some fellow writers, (all online), and even made some writer friends.

Yet the community itself is not "moving" to me. Not that it can't be, but once again, I am on the outside looking in. I have never been successful at breaking through the cliques so common on internet message boards. There are no local writing groups for in person contact, (yes, I am serious). I don't go to conventions and conferences because I know I would have a miserable time, and the one or two local magazines with whom I work semi-regularly have not given much of an indication that friendship is on the table. I socialize with none of them, and really only hear from most of them when it is time to pitch, and time to file a piece. (I did recently join the  Agent Query Connection  message boards. Perhaps I will have better luck there.)

In other words, I write where I can, spend most of my time hoping for more places to write and make money for it, and follow a few writers on Twitter. Yet I am not a full fledged member of the community, despite meeting some great fellow writers and aspiring writers.

Where I live. Two months ago someone in the apartment building I had lived in for three years said something to me for the very first time. It was a nasty comment about how I wasn't parked well. I ignored him. Then there is the fact that back when I used to believe in small town democracy and email city officials with questions, most would be ignored or answered with "thank you for your comments." No answer to the question, just thanking me for comments. Rubes. Also very common in all of the cities near here. That is but one example of why I have never felt connected to whatever neighborhood I find myself in.

So it is obvious that there are many communities out there that are moving to many people. Loving, supporting, interesting, fascinating, fun communities covering everything from art to hobbies, to sports teams and so on. Many of my friends are members of them, and I'm happy that they get so much from them. Yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

How can I not have found a stable, supportive community of some kind that moves me? Welcomes me? Honors my contributions long after they are made, not just when they are required? I have no idea. I know that it has usually been the case in my life. I hated pep rallies in school because I could usually give a shit if the team won or not. They certainly never cared if I aced my final or not. I have felt no loyalty to schools I have attended, and still do not. I didn't bother with clubs very much either. (The Young Democrats in college gave me the wrong time to meet them for an Al Gore rally on purpose so that I couldn't get a ride with them, though I saw them drive right by me on the street. They said later it was because there was no room. There was also no phone call explaining why the time and location of the meet up had been changed. I left the group after that.)

That kind of stuff is common when it comes to me and groups and communities.

The reasons could be numerous. That I am a quiet person, and nobody wants to hang out or invite the quiet introvert. It could be my intelligence and perspective intimidates a lot of people within communities. (Sorry for the horn tooting, but I take pride in what I am, and the fact is I am an intelligent person, and have been previously ostracized for being such.) I am not overtly handsome, charismatic, wealthy, or unique, and that may keep me out of some communities. Yet you find plenty of communities filled with outcasts and oddities. Those who cannot or refuse to meet the status quo. Those that are in fact Too XYZ. Yet I am a member of none of those either.

Plus, I expect to get something out of a community at some point, if I am to put something in. Even if all I receive is a warm welcome or a curiosity about my presence, that is something. Not silence, or begrudged nods and obligatory "welcome aboards" that become the first and last thing ever said to me by the group.

It may just be timing. That I have just so happened not to have found the right communities yet. However, I cannot help but wonder sometimes, when an actor doesn't feel moved by his theatre community, a writer doesn't feel moved by a writing community, and so on. It starts to feel like my own fault after a while. And if I have to abandon my principles, pretend I love people I do not love, or sublimate my opinion into group think in order to be a part of a moving, loving community, I suppose I will forever be without such a community. Yet if there is ever time or a way wherein I can take part in a community like the one described in the prompt while still being true to who I am, I will line up to get in.

There are suggestions. I am not a member of any volunteer service communities, and many swear by them. I have attempted it here and there, to no avail, however. I am amazed at the stories I hear of the loving communities so many people out there find through volunteering. That has never been my experience, and I have given up on the notion of volunteering in general. (Read this oldie but goody to understand how I got to that point. It is honest to God the number one Google return for the phrase "Volunteering sucks." Try it.)

Also a friend told me recently that I should consider finding a local Goth bar and frequenting it, as that community would appear to embrace personalities and histories of all types, black clothing and white make-up optional. Perhaps, though there is no such bar near where I live. (Another reason I am perhaps not a member of many communities: geographical area, though that doesn't explain the online problem, or the problem when I was at school.)

So there you have it. For whatever the reasons, despite knowing some great people, I can't claim to be a member of a community that moves me.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reverb11: Surprise Teachers

Sometimes we find teachers in the most unexpected places. Who surprised you as a teacher this year, and what did you learn?

As with so many of the Reverb prompts, I find this one invites questions before answers. For example, in order to be a teacher, must one be aware that they are imparting a lesson of some kind? Is intention an intrinsic component to being a teacher? Or is someone a teacher simply because I learned something as a result of their existence and behavior? And would the lesson learned have to be a positive one? Or might we learn what we do not want to do?

Is being reminded of something one forgets the same as being "taught"? Is it still teaching if the lesson is reiterating "curriculum" from other sources?

I can't say for everyone, but for me, let's say that there doesn't have to be intention to teach, and that being reminded is a form of being taught. Those ground rules being established, I am going to go with my sister's pets as examples of teachers this year. How's that for surprising?

Actually though, it isn't that surprising. Animals often make us think or react in ways we otherwise would not. (So can people for that matter, and therefore I think anybody could teach me something, and I am not usually surprised at who becomes a teacher. But I'll let that go for now.)

Earlier this month I was house sitting and pet sitting for my sister while she was out of town. She has one dog and two cats. Don't ask me the breeds, because I am never good at remembering such things. Thankfully I am good at remembering that I am quite allergic to cats, and I brought a full supply of Allegra with me.

An animal person I am not. I think they can be fascinating, and great company in the right circumstances. While I am not a Vegan, I do believe that all animals should be treated humanely and with respect. Which I do. Most of the time. That is to say I put a great deal of effort into doing so. Yet depending on the animal, I will sometimes yell the occasional (and I realize, useless) "Shut up," in their direction.

My sister is an animal person. She showers her pets with far more attention than I tend to shower upon animals. To be frank, I think her pets are pampered to a degree. Now they are her pets, she has a right to pamper them as much as she wants, don't get me wrong. Yet it makes for an interesting situation when someone else is running the house in her absence.

One cat and the dog would have been content I think to be carried around by me as I made my way around the house all day. So insistent were they about sitting next to or on me when I was trying to eat, or read, or do anything other than acknowledge them that I spent a great deal of my time and energy keeping them somewhat at bay. I don't usually like animals on me. Even animals I like. So this was one of the bigger adjustments.

They had to adjust as well. They have much freedom over the house, and while I didn't deny them any freedom over their surroundings I did deny them freedom to touch me most of the time.

Yet they would not be denied my attention when it came time for meals and other routines. These animals are definite creatures of habit. When 5:00PM rolled around, no matter where I was, it would become clear that it was time to begin the feeding ritual. (And it very much was a multi-step ritual, believe me.) Lest I forget that it was time for said ceremony, every step I took during the appointed hour had to be a careful one, as animals were at my heels for every moment. (Except for the female cat, whom usually did not participate in all of the meal time ruckus of the other two pets. She, therefore, was my favorite all week.)

The dog also goes out at certain times, naturally. But he will only go out of certain doors at certain times. Most times, he goes out of the basement door into the back yard, barking at non-existent threats the entire time. But after the glorious meal time mentioned above, he expects to go out the door leading to the deck, from the living room. (The barking remains in place once he is outside.)

I had a print out, authored by my sister, explaining these intricacies. I was there for about three days before I had it down cold. And I did try to follow it to the best of my ability, even though I was dumbfounded that a dog that had to shit would refuse so to do if he was set free via a different door than that to which he was accustomed. (I tried it a few times.)

Now what does all of this have to do with being taught? In the process of keeping the animals literally out of my face, off of my lap, and nowhere near the guest room in which I slept, (they tried to invade that all the time before I closed the door behind me), I realized that it probably wasn't easy for them either. Their idea of being inconvenienced is not the same as ours, but I feel certain they realized I was not the master, and that things were not proceeding as normal. I was determined therefore that since I couldn't have them nuzzling me as they do my sister, to at least make the daily march of the immortals that was 5 o'clock in that house as normal for them as possible. Sort of to make up for my personal coldness.

What they taught me, (or as the case may be, reminded me) was that no matter how different certain environments are from what you are used to, once you find yourself in one there is only so much alteration you can expect to make. When in Rome (or Annapolis) do as the Romans (or the pets) do, to put it another way. One must try to be aware of which settings can be altered by their presence, and which cannot.

One should always be aware of personal limits. Just as I was when I was firm in keeping the animals out of my lap. It was not going to happen. Yet if I didn't want total, barking, mewing, spitting, earth shattering, work interrupting, floor cleaning chaos, I needed to embrace the meal time expectations and the routines of "toilet" time. Not that I couldn't have just ignored what they wanted and forced my will upon these animals. I could have. Yet I was not there to create a house in my own image. I was there to be the back-up quarterback who knows the playbook, and does his best to follow it. Had I not, I would have heard about it in loud, angry fashion, and I don't mean from my sister or any other human.

It's all rather Taoist, I guess. Once you step into a river, you are not going to change its course by any more than the tiny divergence the water makes around your body. Embrace that, learn to use it to your advantage, or stay out of the river.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reverb11: Gratitude

What Five Things Are You Most Grateful For from 2011?

- I am grateful that I, and everyone in my family appears to have been mostly in good health for another year.

I can't elaborate on this much, but I remain aware of how many people cannot say this. So despite the cliche of it, this is on my list.

- I am grateful for the first shadows of the ideas I have pertaining to rebooting my life and my writing/business in 2012.

Make no mistake, I know there is still a great deal of planning to go. There are many steps I have no idea how to take going forward. I have pretty strong fears about trying some of this stuff. But I am grateful that at least a loose framework came to mind during 2011. I won't be starting cold in the very least. Chilly, but not cold.

- I am grateful that I don't have to sleep in a shelter or in the street or a car while I engage in said rebooting and strategizing.

Despite the embarrassment of having to make use of my mother's spare room for a while, I have to be grateful it was there. Otherwise it would be the unthinkable. (And because it is unthinkable, I don't wish to write much more about it.)

- I am grateful for the people who continue to consume the material I create, whether on the stage or on the page.

Those that have been doing so since before 2011, and those who are "new" this year. I confess that I prefer more frequent comments on this blog, and more feedback in performances than I get. However, what I do get is appreciated, as are the silent patrons of what I offer. I know some of them are there too, and they do count.

- I am grateful That I was able to finish the drafts of my first novel this year on schedule.

Getting people to read it has gone slower than I thought it would, and I may have to give up on as many people proofing it for now. Yet as far as setting down the deadline for myself, and achieving it, all went according to plan. Editing is an easier form of writing to me in most cases, so I am very happy that is what I have to do with this novel now. That the process of first drafting is behind me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reverb11: What Scared Me.

What scared you this year more than anything else? Did you learn anything new about yourself?

The question is a bit unfair to me. I think deep down everyone is most scared either of dying, or loved ones dying, whether they have reason to be scared of same or not. It is especially true of people like me who might be suffering from higher than normal anxiety levels on the whole. (See yesterday's post for brief thoughts on that.) So even if in a technical sense that would be the answer, I am not going to explore that in this post.

I think perhaps it would have been better had the prompt been "what did you fear this year more than anything else." Synonymous to most people, to me being scared is different than fear. The former is the result of a specific occurrence. A reptilian brain response to stimuli. Fear, however, is something more ephemeral, less immediate most times. More conceptual and more internal. (Though by no means less potent.) A fine line, perhaps, but I sometimes think my mind is a tapestry weaved out of fine lines.

So, while I can't say if I am following the spirit of the prompt or not, I am going to mention one of my greatest fears of 2011. A fear that was not unique to 2011, because it has been in place for a while. Ensconced in both my conscious and subconscious for years. It is the fear of irrelevance.

It is not quite the same as the fear of failure. Failure to me is humiliating, enraging, and far too frequent in my life. I am fed up with failing, and to an extent I fear it will continue. But I am somewhat anesthetized to it by now. (That's a whole other post for another time.)

No, the bigger fear is of my talents and accomplishments rotting, like so much corn in a forgotten and unharvested backfield. Going without attention and recognition for what they are, or what they could be with the proper help and collaboration. I have a great fear of my talents being unseen or unappreciated.

To not matter because nobody thinks I write well enough to be read. To go through life with unread stories, articles, blog posts and tweets because nobody out there thinks I have anything to say, and no style with which to say it. Performing in shows that nobody comes to see because my vision and talents on stage are not deemed artistic, creative, inspiring, bold or good enough. To be seen as someone who is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. These are some of my biggest fears.

I have always said that the two skills I have that have remained immune to self-doubt and outside influence have been my writing and my acting. I feel in a part of me deeper than I usually feel things that I am a legitimate talent in both of these areas. That I am quite frankly good, and at times great at both. When I have the proper motivation, venue, co-stars, and opportunities and such that is.

Yet I have a choking, bone-chilling fear that nobody is seeing that. An apprehension of semi-epic proportions at times that my pedigree, my credentials, my artistic educational provenance, to coin a phrase, has stamped, NOBODY across my forehead. A collection of scarlet letters that have the potential to fence in my talents, vision and creativity, and deem them of little worth. Confine me forever to a place where I am free to shout ideas into the wind, and be unheard, whilst the same wind carries the flashier, better loved, better marketed and sexier lesser talents into influence and stardom.

Have I learned anything about myself as a result of this fear? Nothing new, I don't think. It reiterates what this fear has always reiterated to me; I am uncertain if I have the luck, talent, strength, tenacity, nastiness, power or support to break through the coldness of a dark cynical and at times celebrity and credential obsessed world. It reminds me that I often see the world as a cruel, unforgiving, and destructive place for people like myself, with my given set of personality and talents.

At times I see a vision of the future, not unlike Scrooge saw, wherein  the cracked, overgrown and ignored grave at the back of the obscure churchyard turns out to be my own. Not in regards to my life, but in regards to my potential. My art. My desire to tell the stories I want to tell. My relevance.

Can I, like Scrooge, alter this shadow? Is the shadow even there, or have I created a false image in my mind as a result of this fear of which I speak? I don't know. I only know that my experiences in life have lent themselves to incubating a real fear within me. The thing that outside of safety and health of myself and loved ones was probably my biggest fear, the thing that scared me most in 2011. As well as in 2010, 2009, 2008...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reverb11: 12 Things I Could Do Without

What are 12 things your life doesn't need in 2012? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these things change your life? 

I want to mix fun with serious in this post. Some of these things can not be done away with entirely. Yet let us explore my list. (This was not as easy as I thought it would be. I guess I don't have as big a list of things I'd like to do without as I thought. Perhaps I am not a total downer after all?)

In no intentional order, I could do without the following in 2012:

1) Snow/Ice

Just being cold I can handle, even if I don't like it. I can bundle up. Stay inside. The times when I do have to be out, cold is doable. Yet I have had it with snow and ice. And I have had it with people that are so in love with the shit they beg and pray for more of it, even though power lines are going down, cities are coming to a standstill, and people are suffering through lost work, health issues, and who knows what else. It's easy for people who live in an isolated area and don't have anywhere to go to love foot upon in foot of snow. The rest of us have lives that require, at minimum, electricity, and the ability to transport ourselves. So we don't need all that. Some of my best friends love snow, and that is the least lovable thing about them.

I used to be okay with snow, but I survived Snowmageddon. After that, I would be happy if it dusted snow here and there at Christmas time, and never snowed again for the rest of the year. Sorry, Bing, I don't need a White Christmas that much. I can't drive in it. I have never been good at driving in it. Scares me, and screws everything up, and I could do without it. I can't take steps to eliminate it in 2012, but I will take steps to stay out of it as much as  possible. I check weather reports constantly before going anywhere in winter.

2) The Presidential Campaign

Not the election. We need the election, this being a republic and all. But I could do without the campaign. At least as they are defined these days. It will be a very important election, but it will take a year of some of the ugliest politics ever to get there. I vote, and keep track of current events, but campaigns in the United States have become endless, corporate sponsored, bloated, mean spirited shallow messes with which I tire quickly. I am sure I will pay attention to some of it, because that is who I am, but I could honestly do without it as we know it. I wish it were like it is in the UK: limited money and limited time. You get those weeks, and that money and that's it.

Again, I cannot eliminate the campaign of course. But I can keep my political TV show viewing to a minimal and I certainly will do so.

3) Tyler Perry Movies

Seriously, we have had what, about 13 "Medea" centered movies so far?

I have several problems with these movies:

-The idea that he has to play the old fat woman himself. Were there no women who could do it? It isn't funny.

-The idea that less informed people of other races, or those unfamiliar with this country will think the popularity of the series means they are an accurate depiction of how black Americans behave. I have never once met an African-American who acted anywhere near they way Perry's characters do.

-The ego of having "Tyler Perry's..." in front of everything he does. Even Spielberg doesn't do that...

-They pull down the culture curve for the entire nation.

I can't do anything about it but refuse to watch them, which is what I have always done.

4) Positive Thinking Gurus/ Gen-Y Ninjas

Don't get me wrong. I think being positive is useful and healthy. And I think there are plenty of Gen-Y experts and consultants that have something meaningful to offer the world. But I spent nearly two years online almost exclusively in their company, and man did I get tired of the "If there is anything wrong, think it away" and "I have nobody at all to thank for my success but me", crowd. Yes, yes, I am sure that a person needs to take risks, have some optimism, and believe in themselves in order to go forward. Yet the extent to which some people take it is as grating as it is fruitless. Luck exists, bad days or months are legitimate, and thought patterns are not the root of all good and evil. Period.

I plan to eliminate that "negative positive" by doing what I have already done; unsubscribe, unfollow, unfriend those that espouse too much of that. And I will also make an effort to not comment upon it much anymore. Many of my posts, tweets and writings of all kinds were burned on refuting the unfairness of that approach before now. I don't want to continue such a use of my time and words.

5) Ambiguity

There is always going to be some of it between people. Timing, appropriateness of the thought and such things will on occasion dictate a non-committal answer. Yet I could do without most personal ambiguity.

"Are you attracted to me or not? Is this any good or isn't it? Are you keeping a secret from me for a good reason, or do you just not want to tell me? No, what do you want to do today?"

These are the sort of questions, along with many others, to which I spend I great deal of time guessing the answers. Or otherwise I am pretending I do not see the various elephants in the room, and don't broach subjects. I am hoping to eliminate at least some of that this year, by being more direct. Not blunt, and not without tact, but if I don't want to be somewhere, I am going to say I want to leave. If I find that somebody is doing something I find objectionable, I am not going to equivocate when they ask for my thoughts on it. And I will tell someone when I think they are attractive. (Okay, maybe I will remain ambiguous about that one sometimes.) But to get less ambiguity, I suppose I have to project less of it myself.

6) Anxiety

I'll be honest, I am not sure if my levels of anxiety about things fall within the normal range at times. I worry about the safety of others, and of myself quite a bit. To the point where if I am not fully engaged in a complex activity, I can't always shut it off. I could do without that kind of at times encumbering worry. (I use that term because thus far it has not been paralyzing.)

How to eliminate it? The sad truth of the matter is that I may not be able to determine if it is excessive, or how to eliminate it if it is, without the professional advice of a trained counselor. I am not happy about this option, despite the fact there is supposed to be no stigma attached to it. I attach no stigma to other people who seek this sort of assistance. And yet when it comes to me, I hesitate.

Yet it probably needs to be done, if for no other reason than to determine there is nothing wrong that requires a remedy.

7) Career Uncertainty

I know. I can hear specific people already telling me that this cannot be eliminated totally. Perhaps not. But I could do without the notion of having no clue how I am doing, and where I am going next. To an extent that is the lot of a freelancer, but I intend to draw up a bigger, tighter, more custom fit plan moving forward than I have had before. Trying to follow how others do it did not work, and led me to wonder all the more what would become of my career. If I lay out my own plan, tailored to me, and researched to the ompteenth degree, I may have a better shot at knowing at least what I can expect from my talents. It will be long, scary, draining, grueling work, but it should at least begin to answer the question, "What is next for my career?"

8) Mid-Day Fatigue

This has actually improved somewhat in the last few months. Nonetheless, my freelance schedule, combined with a perpetual night owl status and a shortage of restorative sleep have combined over the years to make me feel as though I am dragging between 1PM to about dinner time. Sometimes after. I get tired of being tired, as it were.

Some may just be the nature of who I am, and my sleep cycles. There may be a limit to what can be done. Yet I plan to take some steps. I already have started taking a multi-vitamin each day. I hope to add an hour of sleep to my normal duration, if I can. I am investigating more natural sources of energy in foods that are healthy. Perhaps a decrease in anxiety will result in a decrease in mid-day fatigue as well. In which case, solving one problem will contribute to solving another.

9) Proselytism 

It's on television,  in newspapers, on signs, in the middle of certain streets. Even in my Facebook feed. (Without liberal use of the unsubscribe button at least.)

Spending energy, time, and money in an effort to beat into the heads of your fellow man that you are deep and important enough to be totally aware of the intentions of the Almighty, and to further indicate that if your word is not taken for it, other parties will suffer infinite suffering in the afterlife? Yeah, I could do without that in 2012. And  2013, 2014, 2015, and every year for the rest of my life, and the afterlife. I hate it.

Like I said, I unsubscribe from feeds on Facebook that do too much of that, if not outright unfriend the people. I also make the effort to avoid the topic of religion when in mixed company. I will at times feel the need to post an anti-organized religion thing on my Facebook, but by and large I try to keep a lid on that indignation and just let the topic remain private as it should be.

10) Whole Family Gatherings

Most combinations of people within my family, at least among my siblings, do not get along. (Which is why I wonder about getting together for Christmas this year for a gift exchange.) Some of it is because there are some asses in my family. People whose individualism and sense of personal morality always trump cohesive family togetherness. Direct fights are uncommon, though they happen. Yet the number of people when we all get together that say nothing to one another in order to keep that peace certainly add to the absurdity of everything. I could do without more family drama this year.

Despite the pull, I may opt out of some of the all-in events that happen next year. I need my space from a good portion of the family that has never understood me, nor never attempted to do so. I tried to understand them, as one of the youngest, for a long time. They didn't want it, and their apathy towards my position in life hurt at first, and now has caused a scar of numbness. I don't care what they think anymore, and would sometimes rather just not see them. Let them go visit the members of the family with whom they do want to get along. I will do the same.

11) Friends that are "too busy".

People have kids. Jobs. Lives. I get it. I hear it all the time. I respect it. Usually. Yet I think all of the above are used as an excuse as often as an honest explanation as to why messages go unreplied to, invitations go unaccepted, and people tend to vanish. You are not too busy, especially when I see that you are spending a great deal of leisure time with other people. You just don't want to invest in our relationship, whatever it is.

And you know what? That's fine. Hurtful sometimes, but if you don't want it, you don't want it. Yet if you do want it, put some effort into things once in a while. Friendships take work, and I could do without people who don't seem inclined to contact me or respond to being contacted.

So I will carry over a few things that I started this year. Such as the Rule of Three. If I send three messages to someone that go unanswered, or no effort is made by them to contact me over the course of three solid months, they are history. I will waste no more time on people who can't do any better than that. I am another piece in their collection, not another friend in their heart.

Professionals hate when I say this, but fuck them I am saying it anyway...friends make time. Period. That's how it goes. You set aside time for your friends. We all have shit to do, but a real person sets some of it aside to let a friend know they matter. (Like, for instance, returning a message at least once a summer.)

12) Being far from friends.

As I mentioned in a previous post, most of my dearest friends are not accessible due to distance. I can't drive to their place when I need to vent, or call in the morning to ask if they want to see a movie that evening. I can't hug them, sit in their homes, hear their voices on a regular basis. Some of the most important people in my life I have not seen in ten years. I could do without such absences.

So, my hope is to maybe call a bit more often at first. And then, if all goes well, set aside some of the increased income I hope to be earning this year to go visit some of these people across the country. (It will take more because I don't fly. I do only trains and buses.) But I have never visited any of my dearest cross country friends at their homes. True, none but one of them has ever visited me in mine either, and don't think I overlook that truth. Yet my schedule is generally more flexible than others. So I hope I can see at least one of them in 2012. Maybe even two.


The second part of the prompt is How will getting rid of these things change your life?

Of the things I can get rid of, each one will change my life in a different way to a certain degree. Yet if there were a universal among them, I would say by ridding myself of each of them, my life will improve by allowing me to sense more of what is creative, artistic, positive, and productive in my life. (Not something I am good at without help.) Moving these things aside, or at least diminishing their influence will begin to blow away some of the fog, and reveal what is behind it. The solid things. The powerful things. Things that, like a giant bridge or a building you know are there but catch mere glimpses of through the fog, will become a constant part of the new landscape.

As a result, in theory, more positive sensory input will fill my spirit, and direct things in a more gratifying direction. Leaving a store of ammo within my heart for when the fog does descend for a few days at a time again.