Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.

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Now that you mention it, I am a pretty flash dancer.

Apropos of nothing outside years of fluctuating behaviour, I decided to google “hypomania” today.

Hoo boy.

How you might feel:

  • happy, euphoric, with a sense of wellbeing
  • lots of energy
  • sociable
  • racing thoughts
  • creative and full of ideas and plans
  • like you can perform tasks better and more quickly than normal
  • impatient, irritable or angry
  • confident, with high self-esteem
  • attractive, flirtatious and/or with more sexual desire
  • restless, on edge and having difficulty relaxing
  • heightened senses – colours may seem brighter, sounds louder and things more beautiful

How you might behave:

  • more active than usual
  • taking risks
  • very friendly
  • very talkative or writing a lot
  • sleeping very little
  • signing up for and taking part in lots of activities
  • taking on extra responsibilities
  • wearing colourful and/or extravagant clothes
  • making lots of jokes and puns
  • finding it hard to stay still – moving around a lot or fidgeting

I dunno. Maybe it’s a tad relatable. I don’t ascribe to the thought that self-diagnosis carries a ton of weight. I really don’t. I’m not even close to a medical professional. Even as an armchair psychologist, I have trouble sitting still. I want to be very clear when I say that any of the following is not meant to trivialise or tokenise mental illness or symptoms of mania at all. I’m sure a lot of the above is evergreen enough that everyone feels this way from time to time. I have never been diagnosed with a condition of any kind and the thought of detracting from the very valid experiences of others would not sit well with me.

That being said, how much of the above applies to my very regular behaviour? So often it feels like the world is moving too slowly. I’ve applied the word “ludic” to my personality before, but it’s occasionally felt insubstantial. I find myself on these spontaneous tears where I can’t do or say enough to convey how my brain is feeling. Overly sociable, charismatic and confident. I get antsy and impatient for people to finish sentences, because of this overwhelming urge that I already knew where they were going from the first couple of words. My thoughts are scattered, but rapid. Crazy quick synaptic connections. Jokes and puns, understanding and dismantling structures social, narrative and psychological. Focusing on/completing a task has never been a massive issue, but I’m usually thinking of the next couple while I’m doing it. Infinite ideas, creativity out each and every one of my wazoos.

The idea of not doing something at every moment feels suffocating. Relaxation seems like a punishment. If I’m not active, why am I alive? Despite knowing that my body needs it, I’ve always viewed sleep as a waste of potential waking hours. I’ll feel this compulsion to be doing more, as many things at once as possible. An insatiable urge for my consumption to keep up with my racing mind. Any substances that can preserve this overly energetic state, I need all of them at once. Sure, I know I’m not gonna feel great later if I drink an unhealthy volume of coffee, but it feels transcendent now. Why not gorge on everything and become one with every atom in my vicinity?

Then downswings. Days, weeks, months. Withdrawing from human contact. Excessive negative self-talk. Irrational irritability. Implacable frustration. A pervasive sense of dissatisfaction with everything. Feelings of disconnect and isolation. This notion that nobody really understands me.

Wait, am I just a teenager?

Who knows, really? If anything, I’m not sure what good labels would do. Is this cycle (which admittedly has more up than down) hurtful to my everyday? Is the cost of the lows worth the highs? I’m not gonna lie, if it’s a touch of mania that propels me, it’s an incomparable sensation. Like gravity has no hold on me. As if boundaries are abstract. An almost divine indomitably. It makes me feel special and gee golly that’s a swell feeling.

Or it could be nothing and maybe I merely drink too much coffee.

So maybe that was a little tongue in cheek.

After all of yesterday’s kvetching over cellphones, I bit the bullet and bought one online. I realised that between all the minutiae that was bothering me (4G capable, RAM, battery capacity, quick charge) the one issue that meant the most was that the phone fit in my hand. I remembered how much I enjoyed my 3rd edition Moto G, so I ordered a Moto G5 (since the G5s wasn’t available in Canada). It was simple, a low rent phone that cost about $250 altogether. It will solve all of my needs and be diminutive while accomplishing them. In the end, I just needed to pull my thumb out of my arse and make a decision.

Buoyed by my Take No Prisoners, dynamic decision making, I bought new shoes. Same deal. I was complaining to my girlfriend about how laborious the shoe buying process was. I have real foot problems that make it a pretty important decision. I get the wrong shoe and try to jog? Shoot pains through my knees. I like jogging, so I need to get it right. Thing is, I think I’ve spent long enough dithering about making the right choice that I haven’t made any. As a result, my last pair have gone to shit and it’s starting to affect their effectiveness. The last jog I went on took more out of me than it had any right to. My knees and toes (surprisingly neither head nor shoulders though) are a bit messy at the moment. I think in no small part this is my shoes’ fault. Or rather, my fault for not replacing my shoes.

The reason this has been difficult is because several years back I chanced into my perfect Cinderella slippers. The Saucony Grid Excursion TR8 GTX (aren’t they pretty?). Unfortunately they’ve been discontinued. I know this, because I’ve tried time and time again to order more pairs. I managed to restock once from a store in Calgary. They’re out of stock now too. I’ve looked on French and Russian sites. No dice. I looked on Ebay. Still nothing. I’m sure there are some sneakerheads who’d know how to track them down. They’re my own personal contraband. I got some Grid Excursion TR11s and they were shite. Poorly made and not the same sweet fit as the TR8 GTXs. In a vain toss of the dice I ordered some TR11 GTXs in the hopes that those extra three initials will make all the difference. I’m prepared for disappointment, but more importantly I’m at least prepared to have adequate footwear. Scar would be proud, and what’s more important to a lion than pride?

I’m loving this new Decisive Action Leon, even if my anxious internal dialogue is screaming out in eternal pain. When dread gets that dense, it’s basically just wallpaper for your brain. Why? Because of SO MANY THINGS. Basically, my brain is afraid that if things are anything less than perfect, everything will go to shit.

Maybe I’ll order the phone and the battery won’t be quite as good as I hope. If the battery isn’t quite as good as I want, then it’ll start to affect my day to day. I’ll have to charge more often, carry portable chargers with me everywhere I go. What if my phone dies and I’m stuck out on a remote road and a local farmer comes to help, but he’s actually a human vivisectionist who dabbles in torture porn to offset the high costs of his excessive remote tracts of land? Then I just have to suffer relentlessly because I failed to pick a phone with a decent battery and wasted all that time watching cube draft videos when I could’ve just listened to a podcast or something?

Or I’ll get these shoes and they won’t fit quite right but the thought of going through the effort to return them, then make more decisions about the correct pair will be too much emotional labour so instead I’ll just wear and tolerate the shoes. Then they’ll fuck up my joints and I’ll have to spend a ton of time going to physio. It’ll affect the frequency of my workouts, I’ll be incapable of staying active and I’ll bloat like a balloon. My self-confidence will flounder, it’ll affect my relationship with my girlfriend and she’ll leave, then I’ll just be a sad blimp with ill-fitting shoes and a drained battery.

Or, y’know, things could be one iota less than perfect and I adapt. Then they become part of the day to day and I don’t even notice much. Turns out we’re all more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.

Entering MiSophomore year.

I’ve always had an issue with certain sounds. Eating noises, mostly. Chewing, lip licking or sucking, the scrape of metal on plates or glass. For the longest time I assumed I was just fussy or pedantic. In recent times I’ve discovered that it’s a relatively common disorder. As time goes by, things are getting worse. It’s becoming intolerable to deal with and I don’t have strong coping strategies. Where did it all start?

That was a peculiar segue, cause honestly I’ve got nothing more than speculation. As kids our parents would chide us for open mouth chewing or pushing too hard with our utensils. My thought is that perhaps it shaped me into mentally acknowledging it as aberrant behaviour? That when I heard other people making those noises it triggered off some response in my brain. I knew innately that I wasn’t supposed to do that, so when others did, it conflicted with an internal boundary. Over time that tread deeper and deeper into my subconscious, creating an automatic negative response. See, I didn’t always have this issue. I noticed it as a teenager, but it’s been steadily growing as I’ve aged. It’s at the point now where it’s become actively intrusive, affecting my day to day. In short, it’s a problem.

I’ve been talking a bunch about how it started, most likely because that was the segue used to spark that paragraph. What I haven’t done is explain how it manifests for me. Let’s say, in a totally hypothetical example, that my co-worker eats approximately 30 crunchy baby carrots around 11.30am every day. I’ll hear a crunch and it’ll spark off a fight or flight response in my brain. I’ll get simultaneously furious and panicked. My heart rate will begin to race, muscles will tense and most of the time I’ll swear involuntarily. Or I’ll be on public transit and someone will chew gum. Or an old person will just be chewing nothing. I dunno, old people do their own things. Or I’ll be at a movie and I’ll hear open mouthed chewing of popcorn. Or my girlfriend will lick her lips in another room and I’ll hear it. My brain will zoom right in on that noise and I’ll barely be able to concentrate on anything else. To be clear, these people aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re not some worthless uncouth hooligans that cause me to sputter my tea and crumpets. It’s not their fault that I’m affected by these sounds or the degree to which I struggle with them.

For that reason, it’s not plausible or functional for me to politely ask everyone in public to chew with their mouths closed. I’m not gonna tell my co-worker that they can’t eat a certain food that they enjoy because I have an adverse reaction. I’m not going to interrupt other people’s movie experiences because they’re unwittingly hindering mine. I once mentioned to an ex-flatmate that she was chewing with her mouth open and she got embarrassed, upset, furious, then locked herself in her room and refused to talk to me for about three weeks. In retrospect, that was awesome. But I digress… Because I can’t expect everyone else to change for my sake, my only recourse is to take avoidant tactics to salve my reactions. Loud music on headphones comes in handy. I listen to music/podcasts all day at work. I’ll usually try to take a break when I’m transiting home, but if someone starts chewing those headphones come out lightning fast.

Thing is, these aren’t solutions. They’re band aids over a gaping wound. I need to address these issues with meaningful remedies. I need to embark upon Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or see an Audiologist. Perhaps hypnosis could help to ease the triggers. I have to choose to do something about it, because I know the other path this could take. I can easily see a future where this all gets worse. Maybe I’ll decide that instead of going out for dinner with friends, I’ll stay home where those noises won’t be present. Perhaps I’ll start carrying earplugs or white noise headphones on me at all times. What if I retreat further and further into these avoidance tactics instead of facing my issues head on? I’m a social guy. The concept of habitually retracting from others isn’t one I’m comfortable with. I could very easily see myself falling into the bad habit of letting misophonia dictate my behaviour.

Frankly, that sounds awful to me.

A pity party is still a party.

Happy birthday to moi. As is de rigueur, it’s been spent way up in a cloud of negativity. I haven’t felt special, I’ve felt shitty, insufficient. I’m at a place in my life that seems comparatively joyless. I don’t like my job and aside from fleeting distractions, my day to day adds up to a cumulative total of fine, I guess. I’m 31 now and feel like the only direction I’ve gone from 30 has been backwards. A year has passed and I have nothing to show for it. A couple more memories to file away, but it doesn’t feel like I had a year’s worth of experiences. I have nothing to complain about, but that doesn’t equal tons to celebrate. My grand plans for the day involve going to the gym, going home, eating dinner and in general wanting everything to go away.

I’d usually treat myself to something, but my patterns of celebration all revolve around consumption. I’d go out to a restaurant or drink myself blind, but keto has stripped the fun out of that. I’ve subtracted the enjoyment from basically my favourite thing to do, which likely forms no small element of my birthday blues. Still, going full humbug has been an anniversary tradition for as long as I’ve been making my own money.

For at least the past 10 years, birthdays have become a mire of self-examination. Another trip around the sun seems emblematic of how much I haven’t done. My lack of progress and general listlessness. It’s navel gazing at its most cruel. Creating unrealistic comparisons is always a fool’s errand, but like a fool I get sucked in every year. Of course I understand intellectually that my life isn’t a garbage fire, but that does little to lift my mood.

The smart thing to do, then, would be to have a paradigm shift. Instead of asking what have I done in the past year? I should be asking what would I like to do in the next year? Nothing as grand as where do I want to be? Something more along the lines of what would make me happy? What does happiness look like to me? What does “good enough” represent? The answers seem self-evident. Of course I want my work to fulfil me. I’d like to be more confident. Fitter, happier et al. The real question should be how do I decide where I want to be without resenting myself for not getting there?

Self-compassion is a skill that we’re not taught. Our society rarely makes a habit of celebrating mediocrity (outside of Rotten Tomatoes’ fruit based rating system) and successes are paraded around as inspiration porn. The side effect is that the yardstick we measure ourselves with goes way beyond our range. It’s unbalanced and the expectations we hold don’t match up to workable metrics. We’re told we can be film stars, entrepreneurs, artists, millionaires. The 99th percentile is achievable if only we try hard enough, right? Sure, for 1% of us. Most people aren’t them.

Look, I’ll be fine tomorrow, when expectations are back to their low bar. Something about the day always makes me feel like there’s pressure to be extraordinary and the surplus of ordinary really twists the knife. It’s a birthday, they come around every year. By the time I sleep I won’t have to worry about it for another sun cycle.

If that ain’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

Three cheers for everyone’s favourite Coppola.

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Like in that Will Ferrell movie. Or when you find yourself in a situation you’d merely dreamed of. Dreams, however, could not come close to the reality I was lucky enough to experience. It was all too brief, as only the best things are. Last night I went to (beat) a Nicolas Cage party.

How many films has Nic Cage been in? Many times more than enough. Accordingly there were beyond ample costume opportunities. While I’d initially conspired to go as Cowboy Pachinko Nic Cage, I left it way too late and didn’t want to have to track down a close-enough shirt and other costume accessories. At some point it gets expensive to put together costumes. The hope is that eventually you’ll have enough items in your closet/tickle trunk that you can assemble a costume from things that are lying around the house.

But I said “fuck it” anyway and went out to buy the necessary bits for a Con Air Nic Cage. I was surprised I didn’t already own a white singlet. It strangely took many hours to find one. The other necessary props were a small cardboard box and a soft toy bunny to put in said box. Then for extra marks I wrote a couple of letters from his daughter all written in coloured felt tip pens with a child’s scrawl. The first I took straight from the film. Things got weird immediately:

“My Daddy is coming home on July 14th. My Birthday is July 14th. I’m going to see my Daddy for the first time on July 14th.”

“I love my Daddy lots I think. I dunno. I’m sorta just a plot device.”

“Hey Daddy. Didn’t you think the use of Sweet Home Alabama in this film was a bit egregious? Or was that the point?”

“Hey Daddy. This film didn’t deserve the stacked cast it had. I mean, Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Buschemi, fucken Chapelle, man?”

“Hey Daddy. Real Eyes. Realize. Real Lies.”

I was ready.

Could anyone really be ready for such a soirée? There was a clothes line in the kitchen, with a ton of hanging Nicolas Cage masks to choose from. A playlist of Nic Cage movies played all night long on the TV. There were tacos (not thematic), a plounge (also not thematic) and a car buffer people were using for quick low key massages (maybe thematic? Who knows? Cage is a sensual fellow). There were cheeses and nice fudges. Tons of mixers. A polaroid camera and endless enthusiasm. My friend’s place is in a converted factory and it’s made for a wonderful home overflowing with character. She has unbelievable amounts of awesome colourful art she’s both purchased and created. Soft toys, dioramas and colourful displays were everywhere. Colour changing mood lights in each room of the house. It was like being transported to a fantasy world. A monument to absurdity and whimsy, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect environment in which to erect a shrine for the OneTrueGod.

As for today, I’m coming out of my Cage and I’ve been doing just fine.

More like sigh-napses.

So here’s a thing about me. I love stand up comedy, but I really don’t enjoy watching recorded stand up specials. Without being there live and feeling the collective energy in the room, the visual aspect adds nothing and I get bored. Love listening to recorded stand up, don’t like watching it. I’ve had Netflix for a while and seen a bunch of promising specials stack up on my potential view list. I’ve tried, but usually get about five minutes in before calling it quits. Yesterday I cracked the code (remembered my password) so I can put Netflix on in the background at work for listening purposes. It was great. Watched Rory Scovel’s special. Loved it. Patton Oswalt’s Annihiliation. Excellent. Judd Apatow’s special. Maybe he should stick with the film thing. So I put the question out to my friends on Facebook. “People who understand the kind of stuff I find funny, would you mind recommending specials that I’d very likely enjoy?”

Then something that I expected would happen, happened. People just chimed in with things they liked. On one hand, it was nice that people were weighing in and suggesting things. On the other hand, they also weren’t answering the question. The question wasn’t what they’d like, it was essentially “friends, do you know my sense of humour? If so, what stuff do you like that would fit in with that?” Blindly knowing what they liked didn’t help, because humour is such a personal thing and the question hinged on a kind of personal familiarity that many acquaintances (let’s be real, most Facebook friends aren’t particularly close friends) wouldn’t have. I was asking a lot. I thought for a second whether or not it was worth re-clarifying the question. Would people think it rude to do so? Was it rude for them to have asserted their opinion without having read and consisted the full question in the first place? I figured it all came out neutral I’m the wash. So I did, and a friend asked for me to further quality the kind of stuff I enjoyed so she could give more accurate representations. So I responded.

“Sure. It’s really difficult to pin down (cause we’re all complex humans, right?). I like a lot of the alt/meta stuff, but particularly the kind of stuff that points to structures that exist and question why those structures exist. Really, pointing the finger at structures is basically my favourite thing about the medium.

I’m really not into silly humour unless it’s silly humour wrapped under a couple of layers of irony (Andy Kindler sort of thing). Otherwise it’s silly for the sake of silly which, meh. Same with vulgar stuff. It’s fine, but not when it’s trying to get laughs because it’s vulgar. Vulgar pointing to clever observations about the human condition and our shame surrounding this kind of thing are great (Ali Wong’s stuff was great for this).

Dark stuff falls under a similar umbrella. Borderline nihilism is fun to play with because yes humans are terrible and fundamentally do more harm then good. We’re silly creatures who trick one another into thinking we have more significance than we do and there’s a lot of humour in the baggage we give ourselves. Blatant edgelord negativity for nothing other than trying to push the envelope, however, can go suck an egg. Bo Burnham’s one of my kind of peeps for this. Also because he’s horrifyingly talented.

I like it when comics play with the format (Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics, etc), I love one person shows (Chris Gethard – Career Suicide/Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King), great storytelling (most anything Jen Kirkman or Mike Birbiglia) and I do like wholesome stuff a bunch too, but it’s hard to quantify which wholesome stuff I like and why (Pete Holmes and Gary Gulman would be good examples of this).”

In sending this response, however, I realised it was still hopelessly ineffective. They were thin outlines and try as I may have to thicken them or add colour, there was little opacity. The breadth and depth of what I enjoy in comedy and why was hastily sketched. When I thought more, even I don’t fully understand what it is that lights up my synapses. If I couldn’t articulate my preferences with precision, how dare I expect that from others?

There’s a humbling loneliness to this pattern of thought that’s left me hanging a little low. I thought to some degree I knew myself better than this. It should be exciting that I’ve got so much left to learn about how I tick, that I have a lifetime to figure it out. At the same time, it’s kind of isolating. It makes me question how close the friendships I have are, what sort of connections I assumed were there, but may not be as solid as I’d thought.

Then the other side of me thinks I should just lighten up. Maybe listen to some comedy or something.