From The Jerk to A TOOL

“A couple of people have asked me about my ‘complicated relationship’ status. I just want you all to know that I’m in a relationship with me. It’s complicated, definitely, but I’m the only one who has to put up with my crap <laughs>.” ~my FaceBook status on January 21, 2014.

image

The explanation behind my status is this:

I came into this world alone. I’ll leave this world alone. Out of all the people on this spinning planet, I’m the only person from whom I cannot escape. I am the only person I go to bed with every night.

And yes, it’s complicated because at the heart of everything, I’ve discovered that I’m The Jerk.

والهزه (The Jerk)

I’ve forgone the chair, the magazine, the lamp and the matches, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me.

“I don’t need anything except this. And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control.” Navin R. Johnson

I’ve been carrying around these three things for a while thinking I need them.

The ashtray is my ego. My ego contains all the dirty lies I tell myself to get along in this reality. It’s the voice inside my head that tells me how awesome I am.

The paddle game is the pointless up and down or back and forth of old habits. It’s the voice inside my head that tells me what an absolute loser I am.

The remote control only has two channels: the ashtray network and the paddle game network. All ashtrays or all paddle games, all the time.

None of these relics from 1979 serve the unnamed something that has been growing inside of me like a strange, night-blooming flower. This beautiful and fragile flower doesn’t have a language yet and I’m trying to find words for it. We could call it awareness, but it is bigger than that. Meanwhile, the ashtray is trying to beat it to death, the paddle game is trying to choke it out, and the remote control is charging pay-per-view.

I have never in my life felt as awkward, naïve and stupid as I do now. Every insecurity I possess has bubbled up to the surface, like a bad B movie on Blue-Ray with Dolby Surround Sound. If you understand my experience, if you feel these things, then I would love to commiserate. If you don’t feel things like this, welcome to my strange and frightening world.

If I’m going to change things, the best way to start is to reframe the problem. I think I will look to music for that, preferably something heavy and gritty-ah, yes, here we are. Instead of being The Jerk, I am now a:

TOOL

Whichever way you look at it, a TOOL is a useful thing but it needs to be fashioned and purposed
(to hear the song and see the actual lyrics, click the picture).

(The following is my paraphrase using lyrics  from “Forty-six & 2” by Tool off the album Aenima)

I’m shedding my skin, picking scabs again, and all at forty-six and twos. I’ve been wallowing in my own chaotic, insecure delusions. Contemplating what I’m clinging to, I know this means that change is coming. Live not the lie, kill the remote, Abandon the ashtray and paddle game to die in the truth, learn, love and do what it takes to step through the outside turning in.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m doing everyone a kindness by discouraging anything other than friendship at this time. Maybe after I’ve softened the old armor and cleared the way, I can come out the other side and consider the possibility of something more.

However, I will not complain or stomp my feet if the Morrighan tells me to quit my whining and dumps a hot, metal dude on my doorstep with the instructions: “Open at your peril.” I may be a hot mess right now, but I’ve learned to never refuse gifts from the gods.

An Open Letter to A Creep

Dear Creepy Guy at the Bar:

I’m thinking you might be a nice person. I’m thinking your mother loves you. Very much. But somewhere along the line she failed to teach you how to approach people. Or maybe it was an oversight on your father’s part. I speculate equitably.

Since the fine art of conversation, which is often learned through osmosis from our elders, has eluded your ken, I would like to present you with a few ideas about how not to interact with women – especially in bars. If you follow these rules, you might be able to talk to a few without them leaping off chairs or ducking under tables to get away from you.

its running away

1. Walking up to a woman only to stop a few feet away and stare is considered threatening. If you’ve worked up your nerve to come that far, introduce yourself and risk possible, but hopefully courteous, rejection.

2. Women who are interested in talking to someone, male or female, smile and make eye contact. If she refuses to make eye contact with you, she is telling you to leave her alone. The frozen deer-in-the-headlights stare does not count.

3. Just because the karaoke DJ announced a woman’s name to the entire crowd doesn’t mean you have made a proper introduction and can use that name as an opening to ask her inappropriate questions about her personal life.

4. Lurking is rude and threatening. It is exponentially creepier when you make sure she can see you coming before stopping mere inches from and directly behind her.

5. If she turns her back to you when you approach, she is giving you the opportunity to save face and walk by.

6. If you aren’t invited to move and talk comfortably among the people that are so obviously part of the woman’s social group, don’t wait until she is alone to corner her.

7. Following her from one end of the bar to the other when she is trying to get away from you is unequivocally threatening, especially if you stand between her friends and her.

8. If a gentleman in her social group makes the appearance that he is with the woman in question, assume that she is with said gentleman. It’s none of your business what the relationship happens to be.

This is not an exhaustive list. I understand that social interactions can be awkward or opaque or strange, and I am able to move beyond those moments because I too seem awkward, opaque and strange (to most). But your behavior was out of the ordinary and constituted the only fly in last night’s ointment of a very good time.

My wisdom is that the experiences we have externally are reflections of the way we experience ourselves internally. So ask yourself, Creepy Guy at the Bar, what would drive a woman to leap from her chair to escape you? What are you chasing that you can’t seem to catch?

Because I’ve asked myself why I didn’t just glare at you the first time you so rudely lurked in my specific direction. I wondered why I waited until I just couldn’t take it anymore before telling you to “go away.” I finally had to ask myself, why did I exhaust all the polite social cues before acting when my gut told me to stare you down? What creepy part of me am I too afraid to confront until I’m cornered?

A Manual on Women: Page 367

Women remember things. We make decisions based on how we feel. Don’t think these are a spur of the moment decisions, either.  Each memory is a point on a microcosmic tally sheet. Much like Maat weighs a soul’s heart against a feather, so too does a woman weigh the good experiences against the bad in a relationship.

On a woman’s subconscious tally sheet, a man could take her on a Caribbean cruise and that would earn him one point. The woman would then go on to grade the man for his behavior during the cruise. If he is attentive and romantic, he earns points for each gesture. If he’s distant and dismissive, he loses points.

Image

This could cross the sexes but I know I do this…

Conversely, a man could never take a woman on a Caribbean cruise (or buy her expensive jewelry or exotic flowers or fancy dinners) yet every gesture he makes shows such an abiding affection and respect and desire for the woman that a bouquet of handpicked flowers, a walk in the park, and a homemade dinner would earn him more points than the man who dropped cash for a cruise. It’s about the quality of the experience.

My sister-in-law expressed it nicely after she had gotten over a miserable head cold. She had volunteered to make 300 sugar cookie children all with piped sugar accents. Then she fell ill. She had baked the cookies but spread before her were 300 unfinished children-shaped treats and she was overwhelmed. Without being asked, my brother showed up “with a smile and his piping tube.”  This was after a hard day of work on his part and helping with the children. She even posted a picture, and I could see the delight on my brother’s face as he saved the day for the woman he loves.

Grand gestures are nice, especially when it engages both participants in something authentic and enjoyable, but a woman remembers every gesture and it all adds up. Showing up with a smile to save the day, even though it’s just piped icing, means so much especially when it shows that the person cares about what is IMPORTANT to a woman.

Image

Are you sure about what you want?

Women and men want people around them and in their lives who add value to their experience of the world. Some of this is monetary, attached to prestige, and dependent on attraction, but in the end, they seek relationships that add value to the meaning of life. These relationships elevate, support, and nourish dreams and positive self-images.

Each present moment is part of a continuum and each experience is a metaphorical point. Experiences within experiences are also points. Your quality of life is determined by the balance between the positive and negative. Where do you want your balance to be?

And Have A Plan To Kill Everyone In the Room

My son posted a rant on his FaceBook. Of course we’re friends on FaceBook. I have him designated as a Close Friend, so if he so much as farts in cyberspace, I get a notification.

No, I’m not that kind of mother. I’m the kind who cares enough to say something like this (after covering my eyes and peering through my fingers to read every word):

“Boy, there are two things you should avoid doing throughout the course of your life if you want to succeed. First, don’t burn bridges in haste. Choose with utmost care the bridges you burn for they may never be rebuilt. Second, don’t rant in public. It pisses people off and you look like an ungracious ass.” In other words:

Image

Words of wisdom to my son.

Granted, I only said something after he came to me complaining that some of his colleagues were offended by his less-than-professional post .  He’s twenty-one.  I think every young adult should get a pass on a gaffe like this as long as the error is corrected.  He was smart enough to come to me with his dilemma.

What my son ranted about is exactly how things are, but public, in-your-face rants don’t change things. Ask the politicians seeking our votes. They rant and rave on their soapboxes, but when they get elected, they quickly discover that their rants for change are up against a much bigger monster than rhetoric can conquer. They tow the party line after a while. Those who don’t disappear into obscurity.

After some careful explaining, and validating his feelings (hey, feelings are feelings and it isn’t my place to tell him not to have them), I instructed him on the best course of action. “Son, only rant to the choir and do it before the congregation arrives.” I also advised him to take down the post. No apologies necessary, just “don’t do it again or you’ll get a reputation for that kind of behavior.”

It’s okay to be angry about how the world is. It’s okay to want to change things. There are even places where rants are effective  (like in songs or comics or IDK, the arts in general – think Spaced Repetition), but you have to consider the audience. Subliminal messages work better. Subtlety will slay the biggest foes. And my personal favorite, kill them with kindness.

My son doesn’t realize it yet, but I’m managing his career. He will not get the opportunity to make mistakes with such spectacular regularity as his mother. I can crash and burn. My gaffes are expected, even anticipated, but he has a pristine field of opportunity out there and I want him to soar much higher than me before he takes another nose dive. Hopefully, I can head him off at the pass before he jumps.

Creating Your Life

I like lists. They make me happy. They keep me focused. Lists are my friends.

I tell my sons to make lists. They haven’t discovered the wisdom of such a simple task, but isn’t it the simple things that offer the most satisfaction?

Caroline Miller, in Creating Your Best Life, swears by them. My bucket list came from her book. I think that book was the doorway into the crazy and amazing life I’m currently living. Lists help us focus on what we want in life–our goals. Lists help us break down those goals into meaningful steps. And it may take a little while, but if you follow those lists, you’ll get where you want to go.

I enjoy reading other people’s lists. There is one going around Facebook right now that requires people to list a certain number of facts about themselves. The number is assigned by the person whose list status you “liked.” I received 25 and I list them below (with tongue-in-cheek) so that you can get to know me better.

  1. I’m a MILF not a Cougar. Remember, it’s all about mystery.
  2. I want to live in a house that can travel anywhere.
  3. I’m Irish-Italian with a touch of Viking, Greek, and Egyptian.
  4. My life is mostly 3Ws: Working, Working out and Writing.
  5. I’m trying to fit in the 4th W, making Whoopee, but haven’t found the right person yet.
  6. I’m a published author as of 2013 but I’ve been writing coherent short stories since I was 12.
  7. I’m an introvert but that only means I need to recharge alone after I’ve hung out with awesome people.
  8. I love to sing karaoke and my bucket list includes an entry that I will sing karaoke in one major city of each state and the District of Columbia.
  9. My job lets me travel all over the country. I’ve met fabulous, interesting people and have managed to sing karaoke in CA, GA, FL, CO, VA, TX and MD (I just started this bucket item last year).
  10. I’m pagan.
  11. I’m a Jesus freak.
  12. I’m also the Morrighan’s hand maiden.
  13. I’ve embraced the mystery of sex-blood-death.
  14. I am a metal junkie.
  15. I do not care for donuts but I like meat, mead, metal, coffee and Mr. Krasman’s metal reviews.
  16. My son is an awesome drummer for Xstrophy who will be playing the Fishhead Cantina in Halethorpe, MD on 11/23 and yes, I will be there, probably selling merchandise.
  17. I have a wicked sense of humor.
  18. I’m too smart for my own good.
  19. My cat’s name is Mr. Hanky the Christmas Pooh in honor of the cat who preceded him, Pooh Bear.
  20. My other cat’s name is Research & Development (R.D.) because he is an idiot.
  21. Both my cats are from a rescue shelter (they make the best pets).
  22. I enjoy doing things that scare the crap out of me emotionally because it reminds me that I should live instead of giving a crap what others think.
  23. My favorite song right now is Get Over It by Battlecross because they must have met my ex-boyfriend and thought he was a complete douche as well.
  24. I think life is hilarious.
  25. I took a Brief Strengths test that ranked the 24 human strengths in order based on my answers. At #1 was Courage/Valor because I am a great person to have at your back. At #24? Humility.

 

Image

Singing my little heart out!

 

I encourage you to comment. Pick one of the following numbers: 3, 5, 7, 9. Tell me that many things about yourself. Dig deep. Say crazy things that you know are true, things that you dream about doing, things that scare you witless because what would [name of influential person in your life whom you don’t want to disappoint] think?

After you’re done, I want you to look at that list. I want you to put a star next to one of the items that you think is important enough to pursue. I want you to put exclamations after it on the post. I want you to paste it on my blog, right here, in big bold letters, that this is something you’re going to do or that you’re going to cultivate within yourself.

Once you’ve made your choice, go do it. Make your lists. Wade into the fray. Give your battle cry. I’ll be cheering you on. This blog has your back.

Written in the Stars

It’s supposed to get even more interesting on November 3, 2013 with the New Moon eclipse and Scorpio and Mercury Retrograde getting all comfy-cozy in the 12th quadrant (house) of the sky. Karma Brewing, that’s how Urania’s Well describes it and she’s saying this New Moon eclipse energy went into effect approximately 30 days before the actual event. She explains it better, so click the link:

BREWING KARMA

Interestingly enough, the 12th quadrant of the sky sits across the cusp of my 6th (Public Service) and 7th (Partnerships) houses (because when I was born, that’s where the fixed houses aligned with my chart). I went through the furlough like a good federal worker (6th) and I became more active in social media (7th) as my writing got a kick start. I’ve been building relationships in the public sphere for the 30 days prior to November 3rd.

But Urania predicts long-term effects. She warns of deep karmic issues bubbling to the surface and cautions her readers to deal with the issues as they arise.  I have an issue that leaves me paralyzed. I know what to do but I don’t want to do it. I have many reasons not to do it.

Image

Mercury, you keep coming back to haunt me!

I am a dark, family secret. In my reckless youth, I would have revealed all the gory details if given a golden opportunity like this and damn the consequences. And now that 44 years have passed, the consequences of this secret are laughable.  What concerns me is the possible upheaval of tidy mental worlds. Beliefs are such inflexible and tenacious things and I lack the energy to deal with the fall out of other people’s choices.

This secret is one of the reasons I have been brutally honest with my children. I don’t want them to constantly look over their shoulders wondering when the other shoe will drop. For me, the other shoe just dropped. New information has come to light. The shock is like being mugged in the back alley of a reasonably safe, suburban neighborhood.

My choices are: ignore the information or follow the thread to the center of the labyrinth and face the big, ugly Minotaur that awaits. Ugh. Of course, I am brave to a degree of stupidity that would make Evel Knievel flinch—I speak in emotional terms not physical.

I’ll confess, though I’m dithering about to do or not to do, I know I will do. I can’t help myself. This is my nature. I rush in where angels fear to tread. I leave chaos in my wake and only those things strong enough and flexible enough to survive will remain.

Clean or Dirty? Creating Art That is True

It’s Always Sunny in Tijuana asked a simple question: “What’s everyone’s thoughts on clean vocals?”  For those of you not familiar with metal music, the genre is dominated by screaming, grunting and growling vocals. Those who can perform these vocal acrobatics with precision are worshiped. Clean vocals can carry a stigma and possibly disqualify a vocalist from consideration as a serious metal artist. So this question voices an existential dilemma that I want to address for all creative people.

Whether you write fan fiction, paint with dog feces, or sing clean vocals in an obviously metal song, you have to ask yourself two questions. (1) Does performing this creative act nourish you? (2) Does the end result complete your vision?

Question One

A creative act is an act of Divinity. It should nourish your alienated, battered, constantly evolving soul. You should feel closer to the Source. You should dig so deep inside that your guts are laid out on the table for a close and thorough inspection by anyone who cares to look. That’s essentially what the creative act involves.

You want to feel like a string plucked by the hand of God. If you write something, and you’re like “Bazinga!” then you have connected with the Source. If you sing something and your whole body resonates with the notes, then you’ve answered the first question.

Art as Big Bang on a smaller scale...

Art is a Big Bang on a smaller scale…

Question Two

Vision is a misnomer. Vision isn’t just what we see but could be described more accurately as ambiance, atmosphere, or evocation.  When you have achieved vision, there is a resonance between you and the work you have created. It is like looking at your child and marveling that you produced something so freakin’ awesome.

Vision implies completeness. Vision leaves no confusion.  There may be loose threads, but the existential inquiries are answered. If the story you wrote provides a gratifying ending, one that speaks to the human condition, then you’ve achieved resonance. When the wall of sound reaches a crescendo and your vocals (clean, dirty, or otherwise) add that perfect counterpoint to cause heads to bang and they’re screaming for more, then you’ve answered the second question  (think “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

Clean or dirty is a question that will always be asked as artists grapple with their fears of exposure and ridicule.  Creativity is an act of courage. Doing anything that invites others to criticize and possibly reject the very essence of who you are is tremendously brave.

As you deepen in your art, cleanliness or lack thereof will no longer be a relevant question. Clean art has no greater value than its down-and-dirty sibling. Instead, the question becomes, is my art TRUE?

That Is the Question

As I transition from know-it-all adulthood to not-so-sure-about-anything middle age, I am realizing that every breath I take is a new beginning and every exhale is an ending. The world is full of potential, a hot bed of chaos just waiting for my application of order and sanity.

Right now I hold my breath as I fight for a moment of clarity in a world of potentials that collapse in the blink of an eye. The responsibility is monumental. Who am I to impose my idea of order? Who am I to allow chaos to reign? I know N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

I am paralyzed at times by the fear that I must continue to breathe or die. Each breath changes the worlds of any number of subatomic particles. Not breathing does the same. The macrocosm is similarly affected though not in such a noticeable fashion. Lesson: I am responsible if I do and responsible if I don’t.

SavedPicture (12)

The symbol of chaos.

I have reached that level of understanding that could make or break me. At least I think that’s what’s happening. It’s this tension inside, a rubber band stretched tight, and I don’t know if I will snap, bind some serviceable dogma, or soar in flight from the hands that hold me. I’m afraid to choose because I want all three.

If I snap, I will become a raving lunatic or a mellow mystic. If I bind, then others will ridicule or follow me. If I soar, I have no idea where I’ll land and I will be alone. Eventually, I will choose whether by chance or design. Meanwhile, I choose what I wear, the food I eat, and make a host of other seemingly mundane decisions. These decision don’t frighten me, unless I find out that the fate of the known universe depends on my selecting the right shoes for my outfit. If that’s the case, be a dear and keep that knowledge to yourself.

I’m not complaining. The whole thing is exciting in a mad-cap adventure sort of way. I have realized that all the crap I’ve experienced, that I experience now, is due to the choices of not only me but everyone else around me. All the joys, too, are the result of choices – to breathe or not to breathe? Right now, breathing sounds about right.

Read the Warning Label

I’ve reached the point where I’ve decided that labels are powerful. I’m not saying they are fair but one must reckon with them or fall victim to them. In our world of illusion, to make sense of our experiences, we must categorize and in this we are all guilty of delusion. A state of illumination is one in which the world is accepted for the illusion it is, the delusions of others and oneself are acknowledged, and the truth is sought in perfect trust and perfect love.

I haven’t reached a state of illumination yet. I’m working on not complaining so much. I’m working on keeping my counsel because I know my delusions aren’t anyone else’s problem. I’m learning that I don’t have the obligation to teach anyone else, because what the heck do I know? I might actually be leading someone astray with all my self-aggrandized wisdom and insufferable experience (or am I just shirking responsibility? AUGH!).

menagerie

Don’t throw stones at glass menageries.

Labels make it easy to complain. White. Black. Wrong. Right. Yours. Mine. An opinion is a label. We like to think we’re informed by Facts, but what is a Fact? Undeniable proof? If you’ve witnessed anyone labeled Crazy, you can’t argue facts or proof. The experience within is as real to him or her as your experience without. I propose that Crazy people were driven insane by Labels.

Realizing the effect of labels is difficult for me. I can’t even determine if this is an evolution of awareness or a devolution into the abyss of madness. Of course a label that could be applied in this instance is Mid-Life Crisis. Or Pre-Menopausal. It’s easy to write off a crisis of this magnitude once it’s labeled. There are many systems out there that would easily categorize my experience and thus make it more manageable. I have to ask: Manageable for who?

I don’t have any answers. Maybe I don’t want answers. That could be the most liberating aspect of this experience. Answers are labels too. I probably won’t be able to avoid answers and I probably will be compelled to share them. All I ask is that if I do and you take the time to read my posts, remember from whence I came.

Regards from a Land of Delusion,

I.O. Kirkwood

The Inner Warrior

The personal focus of Lammas is on the Inner Warrior. This festival of the Lady, Witches honor Her perseverance in the face of loss. Witches examine and hope to emulate how the Lady responds to the death of Her Beloved.

The path of the Warrior isn’t one of winning. It is a call to  self-discovery. It is a testament to how you respond to life’s hard knocks. As a Witch and a Warrior, you will be asked to confront your fears both inner and outer and all in the context of a seemingly “mundane” existence.

There are many paths to being a Warrior: emotional, mental, as well as physical. Emotionally, a Warrior may be called to confront the pain of past traumas. Mentally, the Warrior may be asked to overcome her inner, negative soundtrack. Physically, the Warrior may be charged to defend boundaries that society demands he relinquish.

The Warrior must be prepared. Through self-awareness she knows her strengths. He defines his weaknesses without judgment. She tempers the sword of those strengths and weaknesses in the fires and waters of the Lady.

Before any Warrior may set out on his quest in the world-at-large, he must ask important questions. Ask yourself the following:

  1. Who do you want to be?
  2. What is important to you?
  3. What parts of your life no longer serve you?

Lammas is an evaluation of what worked and what didn’t. The first harvest of a Witch’s magics happens at this time. Some magics are successful while others have fizzled and dispersed. These triumphs and failures are the markers of a Witch’s strengths and weaknesses.

Take some time now to evaluate the wins you’ve experienced. Write them down. When you’re done, evaluate your losses. Write those down too. Notice a pattern? What underlying theme do you notice? What does that theme speak to within you?

Witches understand that the tangible results of efforts that match their inner assessments are the true sign posts of success or failure. As you go through this process, try to identify where you are being overcritical or unreasonable. Apply reason and empirical inquiry to your soul-searching. This means you cannot rely on one opinion to come to a conclusion. Seek the opinions of others but always be sure to test those opinions against your inner compass.