Working on my reflect-ses.

Got to chatting in an online group about body image. I’m sure this is a mishmash of stuff I’ve posted here before, but in case this would be helpful to anyone else, I’ll post it.

I hear this intimately, ’cause it’s something that’s always been an immensely emotional sticking point for me. I also feel like I’ve rounded a corner in the past six months, maybe just through attrition, but I’m generally feeling better than I had. There’s a lot of talk about body positivity that never really jived with me. It didn’t seem to fit with my more pragmatic paradigm. To be clear, I think it’s amazing that we’re all talking about this and it’s helping people, but it wasn’t working for my subset of issues.

An exercise that really did help was suggested by a friend. It’s very easy when looking in the mirror to make negative statements. “I don’t like the way this looks when I do that”, etc etc. She suggested instead looking in the mirror and making neutral statements whenever I’d have the compulsion to say something negative. “I have eyebrows and a nose” or whatever. Dumb as it sounds, over time this helped push away my innate instinct to find the things that caused me to feel emotional, and replace them with statements that were empirically true.

Gradually I started experimenting by replacing neutral statements with positive ones. “I like the way my nose looks. It’s very proud” or whatever. I want to stress that this wasn’t an immediate impulse, it came over time. As more time passed, I tried doing this more often. “My eyes have really cool colours” etc. Then as even more time passed, I began to focus on these positive things when I looked in the mirror instead of the negative ones. Noticing things that I did like about myself was hugely refreshing. Yet again, this wasn’t a whole-body love thing. I still had lots of bits that felt like tension points in my brain. But it did help me have a more positive association with my reflection.

I don’t even know if that evolution was a necessary level. The neutral paradigm far and away helped so much with self-image on its own. Being able to just look in a mirror and look away without feeling down was massive, and really helped me to navigate the world with my head held a little higher.

Another aspect that helped me to become more courteous towards my body, was starting to create tacit connections between what it could do and how that made me feel. I began mentally acknowledging when my body did something that I appreciated, and keeping this in mind. If I had more endurance than I’d expected, I’d note how thankful I was. If my strength or fine motor control came in handy, I’d reflect on how this made me feel.

I’ve always come from a baseline of just assuming I hate my body and how I look. Ever since childhood, this is the way I taught myself to navigate the world. As I’ve grown up, the importance of my own physical competence has really reared its head. If I can accomplish a task, that does make me feel really great about myself. If I can accomplish a task well, I almost hum with satisfaction. These little notes and personal reminders have helped a ton, because they allow me to feel connected to my body in ways that don’t revolve around weird body image notions that cemented in my brain at age 12.

Feeling connected to my body has been a more recent experience. Coupled with the ability to see positive things in the mirror, it’s very much allowed me to give positive connotations to parts of my body that maybe I wouldn’t like the look of otherwise. Sure, I may not find them aesthetically pleasing, but I do understand how functionally helpful they are. Over time, it’s becoming harder and harder to cognitively tell the difference between something aesthetically pleasing, and something I’m functionally thankful for. In my brain, I think they present the same way. I’m sure the dopamine spike people get when they look good in the mirror is what I get from looking at my very functional body parts. They make me feel good about myself, and I’m pretty I’ve discovered positive body image by any other name.

Why do they call them anniversaries, and not birth-dates?

Happy anniversary to us.

Five years is a decent milestone (or kilometregram, for anyone outside North America), so how did we celebrate? Simply, my friends. I feel like there’s definitely been a shifting tide in the relationship in the past few years. It’s probably a very normal and healthy part of most relationships. We don’t celebrate with the same desperate fervour, because it feels less like these situations are finite. Three months in, a year in, three years in, there’s definitely a sense of holy shit, I can’t believe we made it this far. Five years comes with a lot less shock. After three years or so, it’s sorta felt like well obviously, neither of us are going anywhere. It’s not such a crazy idea that we’ve lasted five years, because we’ve both assumed we’ll last a lot longer. We’re used to each other, in that we’re each a huge part of one another’s lives. Her concerns are my concerns and vice versa. We’ll each extend the same considerations to the other in a manner we would to ourselves. Not because we’re especially thoughtful (though she happens to be), but because it feels natural to do so. If this sounds boring or passionless, it’s not. The passion is still very much there, and we haven’t become a homogeneous blob either. We’re both still individuals with very different interests, perspectives and lives, but there’s a point in the middle where that blurs, and we’ve taken on something from one another.

So last night, we didn’t hit the town, rent a hotel and turn the jets up REAL high. We stayed home and cooked. It was fucking great. Because of varying (and often conflicting) schedules, it’s been so long since we had the chance to just spend abundant time together and eat decadent food we prepared. We shat the bed on planning, this can’t be understated. In fact, while declaring that today was gonna be our day to go out and do awesome anniversary things, we’re still kinda cobbling together a plan (as of midday or so). Earlier in the week, she said she wanted to cook at home, and wanted that to include stuffed mushroom caps. Great, I was on board. We tried devising a meal that would work around them, but I got distracted with a Garfield shaped pizza tangent. I’m gonna call her the fuck out for suggesting we arrange corn tortillas in a vaguely Garfieldesque shape and put toppings on. That was a dumb idea and she’s smarter than that. But as it turns out, we arrived at the supermarket yesterday with no ideas beyond the stuffed mushrooms. We cobbled together some notion of the stuffed caps with a roasted garlic brocolli/zucchini “melange” (I don’t really know what to call shit that’s chopped up and tossed together), baked sweet potatoes and baked maple soy salmon. Then ice cream for dessert.

At home I prepped the salmon marinade and chucked it in a ziplock in the fridge. We ruined our appetite with chips and fucked around on our phones, then realised time was slipping away. I hastily pricked some sweet potatoes, slathered them in oil and tossed them in the oven. I realised I’d forgotten to set a timer, so guesstimated they needed another 40 minutes. We kept fucking around on our phones, and time kept marching on. In a panic 20 minutes later, we jumped to action. I chopped veggies, she prepped the mushroom caps (gutting a sausage to get the mince inside for stuffing purposes). I also got distracted trying to make Manhattans. We each had one sip and felt drunk already. It was all kind of a clusterfuck. While everything needed about a 20-15 minute roasting time, we got things into the oven with about 13 minutes left on the clock.

Turns out everything was excellent. The mushroom caps were dense and filled to the brim with umami. The salmon was sweet and soft. Maple soy has long been one of my favourite marinades. Hers came out better than mine. The veggies were light, but flavourful. The sweet potato was soft and buttery, lifting straight out of its skin. We had low light, candles, and whiskey jazz playing away in the background. It was truly special, relaxing and decadent.

Then we had sweaty summer sex, watched Amélie and ate ice cream (though not all together). It was a very happy anniversary.

Heart reacts only, friends

Over five years ago, I met a very cute person at an event. We hit it off, smooched a bunch, then went home with other people.

Three months later, maybe a week after coming out of a tumultuous whirlwind relationship, I ran into the aforementioned cute person at another event. We picked up where we left off, and kept going.

Five years later, we’ve been through all manner of adventures together. These have spanned several continents, the New York justice system, and IKEA while stoned.

In this time, we’ve grown together and learned from one another. It’s no stretch to say we’re both more capable, compassionate and wizened human beings. We’ve had more than our share of problems and issues, but with the shared goal of finding ways to make it work, we really have. We’ve become a solid team, channelling our collective strengths and enthusiasm into making things happen. Our home is a monument to the warm and eclectic, wonderful trashbags we both are.

She’s a kind and emotionally generous partner. She’s absurdly considerate, often taking my needs and wants into account as her own. She’s bright, and covers for the many many times that I miss the obvious. She’s a fucking goofball, who not only tolerates my bullshit, but gives her own back abundantly. She also has the best butt in the world. She’s usually the last person I see before I sleep, and the first person I see when I wake.

It hasn’t always been easy for either of us, but that’s probably what’s made it such a blast.

I love you rainbows, Lioness, and I look forward to tolerating your bullshit for many years to come.

Oh, am I arbitrarily anti-poker now? Sure, why not?

I’ve looked at this page for too long without getting anything done.

It’s weird writing every single day. Sure, life’s a journey, but it’s not like significant events happen for us in each sun cycle. I usually wake up for work, go to work, come home or go to the gym before coming home. It’s hardly the pinnacle of excitement. Sure, strange stuff happens all the time, but it’s more that I’m looking out for them, otherwise they’d pass me by. It’s substantially better to approach this project with some notion of what I’m looking to write. Mostly, I’ll stare right here hoping that a bolt of inspiration pops into my brain. Here are some thoughts that stopped by my mind in the past half hour, none of which felt like they had legs:

  • Just write a stack of haiku.
  • I’ve been planning a ton of social catchups lately, and they’ve practically all been cancelled. Is that odd?
  • Tomorrow is my partner and my five year anniversary. Is that odd? I’ve written about our relationship a ton over the years. Probably because it’s still happening.
  • Booksmart was a terrific movie. Then again, isn’t that what reviews are for?
  • Write random song lyrics repeatedly for half an hour.
  • Is there any difference between saying “myriad [insert thing here]” or “a myriad of [insert thing here?]” (a quick Google tells me the word used to be a noun that specifically referred to 10,000)
  • Why don’t more people know Demi Adejuyigbe (but that was covered in-depth here)?
  • An ode to the delicious Premium Plus wholegrain crackers I buy (literally just looking at random piles of stuff on my desk).

So I’m at a loss. There’s an urgency (coming from who knows where? I don’t think I place much pressure on good content here) that drives me to get this done, finished, over, completed, finito, ended. Etc. My fervent hope is that I’m putting out more than drivel, but it’s rarely rarely happening.

Oh, I’ve got something. I’ve been on the meds for a few months now, and in that time I’ve never cried. It’s not like I was a font of tears beforehand, but I’d at least get teary-eyed. Hasn’t happened since I started on the anti-depressants. So I guess I’m non-depressed, but I’m also so buoyant that it’s hard to empathise to the same extent. It kinda sucks. It doesn’t suck worse than severe depression did, but it’s disappointing to say the least. When I’m watching a film, it’s so much harder to connect to sad characters/narratives. My brain is just like well, I guess that could’ve gone better. Shit happens.

My demeanour, while still definitely manic at times, has also been a lot calmer. If a stressful situation arises, I’m less likely to freak out. An eerie calmness is my first recourse. I feel so even-keeled that I fear it errs on the sociopath scale. I go to problem solving mode almost instantly. It’s very functional, but more than mildly disconcerting. I like being able to give in to the catharsis that comes with a good cry. I think it’s an incredibly healthy outlet for difficult feelings. There’s a release I’m not getting, and a disconnect that comes with it.

On the flip side, I think at age 32 I’ve finally discovered what assertiveness is. This is also an incredibly healthy outlet for difficult feelings. Because my demeanour is calmer and I’m generally feeling better about myself, it’s easier to communicate from a place of confidence. I’m less reactionary, and my views are less controlled by my emotional state. It’s not that I don’t have feelings. I haven’t suddenly turned into a robot. It’s more that I’m able to project my intentions clearly without automatically ceding ground, because I know there’s a validity to what I’m saying. I’m less concerned with how others’ higher status plays into the conversation, because I know that’s all a bollocks social construct. Or rather, I intrinsically understand, which is a big level up. It feels like I’ve got a more nuanced view of the hold v. fold paradigm, and I don’t even play poker.

You know what? Poker can go royally flush itself.

We re-laughed, re-loved, Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies

My workday was spent dealing with an IRL Surprised Pikachu meme. I don’t want to re-live it, so let’s go somewhere else.

What days would I want to re-live, and not change a thing?

I had this birthday once where I went to Rainbow’s End with friends. Rainbow’s End was a low rent theme park back in Auckland, that was the highest rent theme park we had as kids. There was a log flume with questionably macabre pirate statues, a Motion Master Ride that changed video very rarely, and a corkscrew coaster. I ate a ton of chips, then vomited mid corkscrew. It was awesome. As kids, rides had nigh unlimited replayability. We must’ve gone on that Motion Master like 7 times. It was probably one of the first days I was tall enough to ride everything, and I finally felt like an adult. I was likely 10 years old. What an awesome birthday.

I lived in this flat once with a bunch of university mates. It was my first time leaving home, and I couldn’t have found a better bunch. For some reason, my buddy and I were fucking around with nothing to do. We knew that one of our other flatmates was going out to pick stuff up, but was otherwise planning on coming back. We had this tiny room off the lounge, we saved it for friends who need to crash. For some reason my buddy and I decided it’d be hilarious to stay in there for ages, then pop out and scare our flatmate. Simple dumb prank. We parked the car on another street, so she wouldn’t know we were home. Then we snuck into the side room and waited, listening for her keys at the back door. It took ages, a comically long time. We assumed she’d be back in maybe 10 minutes, but I think it was at least an hour before we heard anything. We heard her walk into the lounge and sit down on the couch. We gave each other a countdown, then jumped out screaming “BOOOO”. Real creative stuff. She shrieked in delight, but we realised we’d spooked the wrong flatmate.

We all decided the prank wasn’t over, so the frightened flatmate came into the side room with us and we waited. It was once again, a Very Long Time. Eventually we heard her key in the backdoor. We heard humming and a shuffling of feet, her trademarks. Wide eyed with giddy excitement, we whispered to one another. What if we kept waiting, to make the spook even spookier? So we kept waiting. We were in that side room for maybe another 40 minutes, to really throw off our flatmate’s expectations. After time passed, we were ready. We signalled a 3, 2, 1 countdown, then jumped out screaming at the top of our lungs. Our target hit the fucking roof. She was terrified. We were gasping for air, that’s how hard we were laughing. We realised that she was actually legitimately shocked, so we chilled out and stopped laughing at her. Then we made a couch fort while our co-conspirator baked cookies, and we all enjoyed fort cookies as a family. It’s such a treasured memory, even if it is quite mean spirited. Those were the days. When we felt fine wasting many hours of the day on a dumb prank.

Y’know, it’s like by simply writing it down, I’ve re-lived it. I feel a lot better now.

Okay, he can kick too. Happy?

I underestimated One Punch Man.

Spoilers will follow.

It’s easy to do. The premise sounds dumb. There’s a superhero who can kill anything with a single punch. You know what? It is dumb, and that’s why it’s great. Because it takes a simple, dumb premise and elevates it exponentially for comedic effect. Saitama, the hero of One Punch Man decided one day to become a hero for fun. His arduous training consisted of doing 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 squats and a 10km run every day, and it caused him to gain limitless strength and endurance. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds. Yes, the anime pokes fun at how the workout isn’t actually well-rounded, and would in no way bring supernatural feats to anybody. In the show, however, he becomes literally unbeatable. He can dispatch anyone or anything with a single punch, and instead of bringing him to new heroic heights, he just gets ennui because it’s all too easy.

It all sounds like a one-note joke, but the magic of One Punch Man is that Saitama happens to be the lone straight man in a crazy world. He’s just a normal dude who reads manga, loves food, gets bored, tired and cranky. He’s ultimately drawn to doing the right thing, but often under duress. He mostly can’t be bothered. The Japan of OPM is filled with superpowered miscreants, monsters and world-ending threats. The stakes ramp up dramatically with each episode, but of course Saitama can defeat them all with one punch, so really there are no stakes (despite how heavily the show leans into the gravity of the situation). At the same time, while we understand this, the world virtually always disregards it. The answer would always just be send Saitama in to handle it, but every time he’s the last ditch effort.

The genius, is that the show makes everything harder than it has to be. The world-building becomes incredibly convoluted. There’s a superhero organisation mired in bureaucracy and lingo. There are hero tiers with definitive rankings, and responsibilities for each member based on rank. The alert systems are based on scale, with differing tiers required to handle issues of ascending difficulty. The number of goofy heroes they create is aspirational, with inane powers that the in-universe characters take extremely seriously. It’s all set up for maximum efficiency, communicative prowess and competence. Which all means nothing when Saitama can just punch the thing. Still, the organisation basically ignores our hero, and when he finally joins it’s at the lowest rank possible (because he did poorly on the entrance exam written test).

The true charm of the show, is that while it’s parodying the unending tropes of the medium, it’s doing so with utter reverence. The non-Saitama heroes all try their best, repeatedly putting their lives on the line against insurmountable odds. The villains all respond in kind, with verbose monologues and worldviews. Everything takes so much longer than it needs to, when invariably Saitama will come in and finish it all off with little effort. The joke doesn’t get old or strained, simply because we all know and love these tropes. In fact, the entire world of One Punch Man could exist as its own show without Saitama, but his mere presence warps everything around him, without the rest of the cast understanding this whatsoever.

The show wears its heart on its spandex sleeve, and it’s hard not to respond in kind. I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed an anime this much since Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It’s a love letter to the genre, and worth sticking with all the way to the end. It only gets better as it goes.

Nothing grows here

I need a post Pride holiday.

What a brilliant weekend of sunny, vibrant revelry. I danced, drank, dressed and dallied to my heart’s content. I did very little sleeping, and very lots of socialising. VERY. LOTS. I crashed a bunch of pre-parties, which were perfect occasions to meet friends of friends. I spent a ton of time moving with groups between venues, ordering Ubers and being the logistics fella who kept loose plans on track. I also spent way more time outside than I usually do, and I think that’s tuckered me out more than anything else. Today I have no time or capacity to give fucks. Like Van Morrison when he made that absurd contractual obligation album. I want to go home and zone out with food, however it’s taking all day for work to finish. Y’know, the work day and all…

I don’t know how many plain crackers I’ve eaten today, but the answer would astound you if I knew it. I’m reverting to primal urges. It’s only a matter of time until I throw a stick into the air and it morphs into a satellite. If this keeps up, I’ll probably end up making roast pork for dinner, then tearing it apart with my bare hands. I’m not even suggesting this would be a negative outcome. It sounds fun as hell. Hand held foods are the best type of foods, hands down.

My brain feels so flat today. I walked into the office in a fugue, and I’ve barely talked to anyone in my waking hours. Except, of course to tell them about Van Morrison’s contractual obligation album. It took a litre of coffee for me to regain some semblance of composure, if of course composure can be measured in how readily you rant about the improvised album Morrison recorded in a single day. I’m well-composed, by that margin.

Did you know that Van Morrison had a contractual obligation album? I didn’t know if I’d mentioned it. The thing is bonkers. The first few tracks are mostly identical, but swapping verbs readily. I’m sure there’s an elegant difference between “Twist and Shake”, “Shake and Roll”, “Stomp and Scream”, “Scream and Holler”, and “Jump and Thump”, that I’m just not discerning enough to notice. In this clusterfuck of a recording session, he does a song about ringworm. He does a song about going to the bakery. He talks shit about the label and their demands. It’s the epitome of sowing salt, and I’ve seen few moves so inherently salty.

Did you know that salt has no calories?

All this talk of salt is making me hungry. Maybe it’s time to put aside the plain crackers in favour of something a little bit flashier. Saltines, here I come!