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Author: Jenn

How I Try to Help Myself but Make My Stress Worse

Today I learned that I’m perfectly capable of continuing and doing things when I really don’t feel like doing them. I do it all the time with work and yet I don’t see myself as being capable of extending that power into other areas of my life–especially when work balloons up sometimes and demands most of my attention for a stretch.

I tend to shut everything else down in these times and while, in some ways, it does make my time to focus on work a bit more flexible, overall it has the effect of leaving me tired on a soul level. It’s unintuitive and it displays to me how much I’ve come to crave balance.

While a bit stressed right now, that is actually very nice to realize about myself because a few years ago I deliberately started building toward being more of that kind of person. Someone who is generally balanced and when deprived has a longing for the space to be present, again. Present for my own body, my family and my creative connection to the world around me.

The plan is to not stay here, it’s to take action. This weekend I’m working on getting way ahead of my mountain of work for next week and plan to initiate more balance as I will get to see my family in Texas for a bit.

Work is important.
Family is important.
I am important.
Everything in its place.

The Formula for Starting Anything

Some time recently I came across some post some friend shared on Facebook about why you’re super depressed based on your zodiac sign or something. And apparently Pisces just always suck when they aren’t constantly trying to communicate their feelings through all the artsy stuff they create.

When I finally wiped away my salty tears after singing a ballad into the ocean waves, I actually thought about it. I realized I have been wandering a pretty barren landscape of business and chores through 2017 trying to work on building some concrete things in my life…apparently to the neglect of anything abstract. Anything kinda spiritual.

Anything having to with art.

Ugh I hate it when dumb shit on the internet actually leads to a spiritual revelation.

I read this blog post today from my professional sphere called “Content Marketing Is a Job, Not an Art Form” that helped me see some ways I’m trying to use the wrong tools for the wrong things. I can easily get pretty darling about my work and spend a lot of time waiting for the “right” moments to create, for inspiration to lead me. But my work really isn’t about art–it’s about formula–and trying to make my work also feel like art was leaving me dried out and feeling bad at both.

I miss doing stuff that isn’t tied to a bottom line somewhere. I haven’t had a mode of expression that’s worked for me in a long time.

The Backstory

I used to draw constantly when I was growing up. One of my very first confusing crushes was on a boy in my third grade class who could draw Tweety Bird perfectly. I couldn’t decide if I liked him or…if I just wanted to eat him like Kirby and absorb all of his magical powers…

What was awesome though is that didn’t stop me back then I wasn’t as good as Michael but it turns out I still really enjoyed drawing stuff so for the next like 9 years of my life, that’s pretty much all that I did.

But then, of course, as I was on the threshold of my burgeoning adulthood, I tried to do something different with it and I wasn’t awesome at it right away and so I burned it all to the ground and walked away.

The State of The Union

Drawing was my deepest darling, something that started off as accessible and fun when I was a kid but as I grew up I let it become serious and terrifying. I held it so close that the thought of opening up enough to show it again without it being perfect terrified me so much that I just shut it down all together. It’s still shoved in a dark corner of my mind somewhere but I hate this arrangement.

I wanted a way to start charting a course to get back to it and be strong enough to deal with bringing it back out of me, again. My husband has been wanting this for years and in 2015 even got me a Wacom tablet to try to coax together my loves of drawing and computers.

It took me over a year to even get it out of the box.
…Then another several months to set it up.
…Then another several months to get a battery pack to make it wireless and use it for a second time…

It seems that getting to the art still has some formulas that lead up to it, so today I sat down again with a simple mission: to figure out how to get back.

The Formula of Art

Getting started is always the hardest part of trying something and I often struggle with trying to over-dramatize it, wait for THE PERFECT MOMENT where inspiration strikes like lightning and everything falls into place.

Problem is, that’s like, not even a real thing that happens. Not that produces anything enduring, anyway. Inspiration may give you like 10% of the energy you need to really DO something. The other 90% is just going to be some work. Inspiration, perspiration, Thomas Edison, blah blah blah.

Ugh I hate it when jerks actually say some useful stuff.

Here’s another quote I love that I find really makes things actionable. I come back to it over and over and over again because it gives an excellent, repeatable template for getting started on anything, whether mundane or profound:

The only thing missing is just asking the first question “What do I want?”

1) So…Okay. What do I want?

I want to be happy drawing again. And at some point to break through the wall that stopped me after high school.

2) Cool, that’s a great destination. Where am I, now?

I’m scared because I know I’m pretty sensitive about it which is why I stopped in the first place so going STRAIGHT there to face my Goliath after about 12 years away would probably fry my brain and drive me further away from that goal. So I want to start smaller and build some confidence muscles.

3) Great, then what do I have?

☑︎ Self

☑︎ Computer

☑︎ Wacom tablet

☑︎ Burning need to buy back-to-school supplies…

4) Excellent. So what can I do?

I wanted something a little bit concrete where I can drill into some specific, simple skills and build some muscles, figuratively and, literally, in my hand. Since I pretty much never use pens or pencils anymore my hand doesn’t even easily move that way anymore. This led me to…

Hand lettering!

It’s great, it’s something that will allow me to use my Wacom tablet OR a simple notebook and encourage repetition to hone some skills–and it’s also trendy enough right now that there are some fun resources available online to help me learn. I chose to focus myself and get started by creating a simple image to put here on this post that was 1) passable enough to share (which took me about half an hour to draft some dozens of times…) but also 2) still obviously displayed my beginner-ness and then continue my work by finally paying the measly $20 for Caroline Kelso Zook’s Better Lettering Course which I’ve had my eye on for a long time.

Something only begins when you try.

So. Here it is. A good [way, way post] college try.

 

The Earth Goes around The Sun Like This

Oh man. Some days you’re contemplating the nature of belief and some days you’re just trying to post some nihilistic shit on the internet with some science sprinkled in and just screw it all up. Thanks for calling me out on Facebook, Brian. Everything was awesome when I was just ignorant you asshole. I hate you for making me learn.

But alas, here I am with this blog about learning. So whatever.

Brian, I guess we’re still cool.

Anyway. So TIL that just because the summer solstice is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere–that does NOT mean that Earth is at its closest point to the sun.

It seems that having a basic framework of facts like:

  • Earth revolves around the sun!
  • Earth revolves around the sun in a silly oblong shape!
  • Earth is tilted on its axis!

….cannot necessarily just be smashed together and brushed with some general logic to make another fact.

It’s like this to start. But GUESS WHERE JUNE 21st IS, HUH SMART GUY?

It seems that the earth’s general oblong rotation around the sun makes SOME logical sense for the experience of earthlings…that are in the southern hemisphere. But for those of us up north, it’s all wonky. “It produces, in concert with our tilted axis, the analemma.”

Anal-what?

Here, read the full article about the anal enema:

Why Earth is Closest to Sun in Dead of Winter

And then also here’s another article that I googled on the internet:

Happy summer solstice! Here’s a guide to the longest day of the year. 

Oh, that’s delicious.

So tonight when you are celebrating Midsummer by ritual cleansing, burning a witch or shoving a flower under your pillow to dream of your future husband, maybe you will you will also just pause a moment and remember that we’re all just living on a rock swirling furiously around gas as we hurtle through the void.

Amazon Give Back Box for Old Boxes and Charitable Donations

My husband & I are pretty avid online orderers these days and have recently become buried in our piles of shipping boxes. We were kinda loosely holding on to them as we are looking at a probable move in a few months but are starting to get conflicted because we have enough now that we could make such a cool multi-tiered cat fort…

#LIFEGOALS

But in reality it turns out…

  1. We REALLY REALLY REALLY hate being surrounded in cardboard clutter for a potentiality with no set timeframe, yet…
  2. We’re wondering if maybe there’s a more directly-beneficial-to-humanity kind of application when we’re finally done with them?

And it turns out, yeah kinda!

Behold, Amazon Give Back Box

And it seems incredibly easy. Here are the 3 steps from their website:

The Dude discovered this the other day and it’s pretty cool to see Amazon fixing problems for the discerning consumer who can no longer be bothered to leave their house to acquire toilet paper or donate their own shit to the charity dropbox that’s likely within a mile of them.

Seriously. There are hella places to donate your shit in the U.S. And there are probably drop-off locations hella close to most of us. Speaking of close to most of us…

FUN FACT: Did you know that Whole Foods’ 440 stores [now] gives Amazon access to refrigerated warehouses ‘within 10 miles of probably 80% of population?’

Amazon Eats Whole Foods

I thought Amazon had some existing program where you could shove your shipping boxes inside of other shipping boxes and send them back for recycling or something but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Just sending them to your local recycling provider was the only conscious solution prior to the end of 2016.

But now another question is haunting me… what happens to the boxes after they’re received by the local charity? Don’t they just have to do what we would have to do to recycle the boxes ourselves…? One midwestern Goodwill seems to have their own approach: Reuse & Recycle with Goodwill 

So okay, that’s cool. I guess I could do the same too, apply a bit of creativity to Box Mountain because recycling isn’t the only way to repurpose existing material.

I also just discovered Cardboard War coming up near where I live in September so lets be honest. After all of this exploration and a deep dive into desires for environmental protection, these boxes are really just going going to live out their retirement as some shoddy samurai armor and go down with an old-fashioned joust against some equally-ridiculously-dress peers. And then probably at some point be set on fire because why not. All’s fair in cardboard and war or something.

May the best box win.

BOX WAR! From the lovely poem “Two Boxes” by Shel Silverstein

It’s Called “The Backfire Effect” – But It’s Probably Not Real.

So last week I learned that my last post relates to a psychological phenomenon called the “Backfire Effect.” It’s a little more specific to one aspect and explores just how, when people are presented with evidence against their own beliefs, they tend to hold their beliefs more strongly.

I came across it because my husband like stopped eating his dinner abruptly one day last week because he remembered he needed to finish reading this post from The Oatmeal. Learning can happen SUDDENLY and WITHOUT WARNING at any time, people…

I liked Matthew’s poetic conclusion at the end:

“Because this universe of ours is so achingly beautiful. And we’re all in it together. We’re all going in the same direction. I’m not here to take control of the wheel. Or tell you what to believe. I’m just here to tell you that it’s okay to stop. To listen. To change.”

I also learned another thing, that I had previously read about this effect a log time ago via my favorite weekly email & knowledge blog, Brain Pickings:

Article: The Backfire Effect: The Psychology of Why We Have a Hard Time Changing Our Minds

(And now I’m reminded even more why I need this blog to help me filter and make sense of my own damn reality…)

I also found it interesting that as I was Googling around for more information about this thing I noticed that Wikipedia wanted to direct my search to “Confirmation Bias” instead of this “Backfire Effect” which is, again, related but not the same actual phenomenon. But hey, RationalWiki has our backs with a basic definition…

ALSO also, I noticed that time-to-post really is of the essence, I see a lot more results in my Google search thank when I started this post like 6 days ago, including this one from Mashable just 2 days ago…

Oh….shit. 

ArticleThis comic about the ‘backfire effect’ went viral — but there’s a huge catch

 

Nevermind.

A peer-reviewed study was tried again last year and this effect couldn’t really be replicated. Making it effectively a thing that was observed once before but if it can’t be repeated it’s not a science thing.

EVERYTHING WE THINK WE JUST LEARNED ABOUT ANYTHING ISN’T ANYTHING.

NO.

Okay.

I guess this single little adventure pretty clearly illustrates this new quest I’m on for accumulating “good” knowledge.

I started realizing how difficult it had become to tell what was true or not on the internet. I found more and more that were floating across my newsfeeds in various social networks were starting to collect in my mind like a plaque and ideas and opinions were forming and flowing that I hadn’t ever really, consciously thought through.

I think that is an important root of why many of us are frustrated trying to communicate online right now as well, we have all sorts of things from people we know shaping us that we didn’t necessarily consent to or seek out. And for relationships, that’s weird.

Previously we only knew much of anything about people we deliberately sought out and it generally required a sacrifice our own precious time & space to do so.

Now, instead of only being able to collect as many thoughts from others as printed materials we could read from them or direct conversations we could have, we are passively letting our minds be shaped by endless streams of emotithoughts as we are lying in our beds eating 4 day old delivery pizza or sitting on our toilets–the most intimate and otherwise private of spaces we afford ourselves.

MAKE TOILETS BEDS AGAIN.


This has an effect I’m now working to untangle. As frustrating as just this one post was for me to spend a few extra minutes researching and several days procrastinating on, taking back ownership of my learning is a frustrating fight I’m now consenting and seeking.