Friendship. It’s a funny thing. I don’t think I’m good at friendships, but I idealize them when I see them.

I’m still listening to the Back To Work podcasts. I sometimes get annoyed at the wandering was-there-a-point dialogue between the two guys, Dan and Merlin, who do the podcast…but mostly I love them. I love their interactions, I love the way they play off each other, I love their bromance.

I love that one of their sponsors of the podcast had Merlin write a rock opera. I love that Merlin wrote it about Dan.

I really love hearing them exchange ideas, I love that they love each others ideas and talents and quirks.

At least that’s how it sounds coming through my ear buds.

I love friendships like that. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a friendship like that, but I definitely love witnessing it.

Actually, I have had a friendship like that, or something like that. It was when I was really little, back before we knew to maintain the distinction between “me” and “you”. We’ve lost touch, and we’ve lost even the slightest feeling of connection. I guess that happens. Who we are at 5 is not who we are at 15, or 25, etc.

The last time I saw him, it was something of an eye-opener. I’d seen him two years in a row, going back to the hometown for the winter holidays. He told the same stories each year, his golden teenage years recounted with his adoring father beaming at him and enjoying it as if he’d never heard the stories before. I guess he knew his part. It was weird for me, to have this person who was so much a part of me at one time that we believed we were twins tell stories about our shared childhood that I couldn’t relate to at all.

The fact that the same exact stories were told the second year, and told in the same way, as if they were a performance…well, it bored me.

I moved on, I stopped idealizing the connection I thought we still had.

But the truth is that I never can move on from that friendship, not really. The souls of our 5 year old selves are so entwined that I couldn’t tell you who was who. No wonder we thought we were twins.

Part of me will always be him.

I’ll always hope he’s doing well. I’ll always feel that invisible thread between us.

I don’t want to know if he feels it too.

I am pretty sure I know the answer anyway.

5 days writing, 2 days sitting. I feel like I’m getting somewhere.

My plans for the winery fell through today – my friend ended up getting a really bad cold and needed to rest instead. I was relieved. Sometimes I wonder about myself.

An old friend, a former coworker from a different life, sent me a photo of him and another ex-coworker. It was taken at a party thrown by a third coworker from that time in my life. They hadn’t seen each other in years, but they still pull together once in a while.

In those days, with those coworkers, I had a bond. R would sometimes stop on his way home from work and I’d throw a frozen pizza in the oven. He’d pick up some beer, and we’d sit on my patio and eat and drink and he’d sometimes talk about the things that were weighing on his mind. In that odd way of life, there were things he could talk to me about that he couldn’t talk to others about because we weren’t close. He needed someone with a different perspective. He needed a little sanctuary, a little break from the issues he was dealing with at the time.

It was easy to spend that hour with him. I think it was good for us both.

Some of us would get together on Friday nights, usually going dancing.

I don’t know if it was that place, that time in my life, or those people, but somehow I was connected and it felt easy.

I used to see S and his wife almost every time I would go back to Arizona to see my parents. But then one visit he complained quite a bit about having to pick me up from the airport. I didn’t mention that I flew into Phoenix instead of Tucson specifically to make visiting my old friends easier, despite that it meant a 2 hour drive (each way, each leg) for my parents.

It changed things, to have this old friend complain about having to go 5 miles out of his way.

By chance, my visits with my parents ever since then have been outside of Arizona, but deep down I know that I will no longer make the effort for my Phoenix friends. I’ll be flying in and out of Tucson…whenever it is that I end up back in Arizona.

It’s not that I’m mad at S, but it definitely put things in perspective. I no longer feel an obligation to make room in my visit for them. And if I’m not making the effort, they certainly won’t. It’s a little sad, in a way, but at the same time it’s not.

One of the odd things about being an introvert that it has taken me a really *really* long time to grasp is that my perspective on friendship is different. It takes noticeable social energy to spend time with people. It’s different for an extrovert. This means that who I spend time with has more significance for me than it does for them.

I remember going back to Denver to visit some friends about a year after I moved here. I was a little surprised when one of my friends, someone I had thought was a close friend, someone I’d kept in touch with, made a comment that they were surprised I’d made it a point to see them on my visit. Their context was that these visits back are always busy, always filled with plans. Which was true. But the sub-context, which it took me a while to fully understand, is that they had no idea that I thought of them as close friends.

Sometimes I wonder if we ever have much of a clue what role we play in other people’s lives.

I feel like I’m too ranty lately.

I suppose that says something specific about me, since I’m mostly writing stream-of-consciousness style, just making the clackity noise. And what seems to come out is snark and rants.

Something interesting that I discovered in my 2.5 years of therapy and in all the biking is that talking about the things that upset me … didn’t help. If I have a crappy commute, if some jerk at a light honks at me for NOT running a red light (straight into traffic! What an intellectual giant he is, that rude guy honking at me!) and I tell the story later, I get mad all over again.

And over and over.

I have actually told the story of the guy honking at me to go through a red light several times now, and though I don’t get *as* angry in this retelling as I did in the first retelling, the truth is that I do feel anger.

And it doesn’t help. Re-feeling the anger doesn’t help me. It just makes me mad!

What helps is to let it go. (Hey, there’s some buddhism for you – non-attachment!)

And the biking does that. This is why I feel that biking is a sort of moving meditation. I can be caught up in my thoughts – anger at The Honking Man, or mulling over work things, or some day dream about something, or what to eat for dinner – and I’m going to repeatedly be pulled out of those thoughts. It’s not exactly the same as meditation, in the sense that I am not consciously letting go of those thoughts, but I feel that what is accomplished is similar.

Most importantly for me, for my movement out of depression, and for my stability in the time since, is the letting go of the thoughts. Those interrupts. The way I simply have to BE in the moment, often.

This is why the biking makes it easier for me to sit and meditate now, as opposed to 3 years ago when I tried before. I’m less antsy, first of all. I’m also used to letting the thoughts flow and go.

It’s different, I think it will be important and helpful to create a sitting meditation practice, but the biking has giving me a foundation to build from.

I sat last night. Just for a few minutes. I didn’t use chimes or time myself or make note of the time I started and stopped, or anything like that. I didn’t want to think about the time. I knew that if I was measuring time in any way, I was going to be antsy about the time.

Are we there yet?

So I just sat. I let the thoughts flow and go. I felt comfortable. (I was sitting in a chair, don’t tell anyone!) I felt good.

And then Tristan meowed. I was pulled out of the flow-and-go mental state, and decided quickly not to try to jump back into it. Tristan was my chime, I figured. My small success was exactly right.

I continue to listen to “Back To Work” while at work, and I continue to love it. I finally realized (after 19 episodes!) that when they go back and forth with their pop culture references, they’re actually playing a pop-culture word association. It was funny to realize this, and even funnier to realize that it took me that long because I am so SO out of the loop with pop culture that I didn’t even get that they were bullshitting.

But now I know, and so it’s funny. I don’t even know if the people and movies they’re talking about are real, but it’s so clearly off-the-cuff, it’s just fun to see them playing the game.

Today I heard a lot of talk about getting started. I hear this a lot from some of my favorite photographers too, but essentially it comes down to this: you have to do the work. And you have to do the work today with a sort of dual mind: you need to build on yesterday, but without being controlled by yesterday. That is, on one hand, you want to be learning and moving and improving every day, right? Or at least trying to. But on the other hand, yesterday’s success or failure (at least in the sense of “did you ship”) is irrelevant for today.

The fact that you didn’t sit down to write or meditate or whatever yesterday has nothing to do with whether you’ll do it today. That is, we know that mentally this does carry weight for us, but the point here is to turn away from the role it can play in preventing us from getting started.

Getting started is so absurdly hard, isn’t it?

I do this all the time. Something simple, like the dishes. I know I have to do them, I know it will only take 5 minutes, but I put it off and off until it becomes stressful. Why not just do it, right? Just take the five minutes and get it done instead of spending the entire evening trying to not think about the fact that I haven’t yet done the dishes!

Three strategies I’ve found that have helped:

1. Trick myself. I’m not *really* going to do the dishes right now, I’m just going to get the water running. And then the soap going. And might as well get the dishtowel damp. And hey, as long as I’ve done that, I’ll just do a dish or two…

2. Don’t think. Head to the kitchen purposefully thinking about something, but not about the dishes. Start doing the dishes while consciously not thinking about the fact that I’m starting to do the dishes. Once I’ve started, I’m good to go.

3. Think about how good it will feel once I’ve done them. How good it will feel to not have that chore hanging over my head.

Our minds are such weird complicated places, aren’t they? For myself, strategy #2 definitely works the best. I think this is why ingrained habits, like bike commuting, stick really well. I’m not actually giving myself the option of biking vs driving, so there’s no thinking. If I go to work, I get there on the bike.

Of course I haven’t managed to do this for the grocery shopping yet…

Merlin said, in episode 20, something that I really loved, because it is so true:

“there’s a million things I can’t start because my brain doesn’t feel ready yet.”

My brain doesn’t feel ready. That’s the problem. If our brains were easier creatures to deal with, a lot of things would become easier!

I have decided to start meditating. Or at least to start trying. I’ve tried at various times in the past, with mostly not great results. But I’m in a place right now where it will be easier, thanks to the biking.

A friend was giving me some links on the type of meditation that he does. (Who knew that there were *types*?!) It was really weird to me. He doesn’t seem like a judgemental type, but in explaining that there are two essential types (zazen and mindfulness), he basically said that everyone benefits from zazen and some people seem to benefit from mindfulness even though it’s from a completely different school.

Odd way to put it.

So I followed his zazen links. The first was a few pages of photos showing how to approach your cushion, make a few bows, how to sit, how to hold your hands. Uh huh. The next link was some guy’s blog that he really liked. A zazen master, presumably. The blog had a lot about why it wasn’t really meditation if you were sitting in a chair, and why they (the zazen community in general) weren’t being exclusionary or discriminatory even though they will come right out and say that unless you were physically capable of sitting in their super special way, you weren’t welcome.

Huh.

So suffice to say I wasn’t interested in reading more about zazen. I like mindfulness. I have read a few things by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron and I like their approach, I like what they say about mindfulness. My therapist had a mindfulness focus – it’s the reason I chose her – and it works for me. So I told my friend who kindly had given me these links that I was going to check out the mindfulness meditation because I felt it would suit me better.

This guy is really into the zazen thing. He responded that he didn’t think it would do any harm to experiment and cross over, though the zazen master (the one whose blog he linked me to) wouldn’t agree.

Weird, really really weird. To me.

So, within two emails, he told me two things, and I am not even sure he’s aware of how weird it was for him to say these things.

1. He doesn’t believe that most people are helped by mindfulness meditation (as opposed to zazen, which helps everyone).

2. He thinks mindfulness meditation can be harmful, which he reveals by assuring me that he doesn’t think it’s harmful to “experiment” and “cross over”.

Is it me? Or is it weird, really really weird, that someone would say that of two “styles” of sitting on a cushion to meditate in exactly the same way (but one with an obsession about the sitting as it’s own Thing), one is helpful and the other is harmful?

They’re the same damn thing! Seriously, the only difference between the two “styles” is the people talking about them!

I don’t have a special cushion or a secret handshake.

I’m just going to sit. Mindfully. And I’m going to start tonight.

It’s odd, but I realized only a couple years ago that I’m an introvert, rather than an extrovert. I like people (sometimes), and I like talking to people, so it was masked a bit. I’m the stranger-talker, you know? Drives a friend of mine crazy. She used to think it was something I did, to encourage people, but then she realized that people (strangers!) would seek me out to start random conversations.

I think those are fun (usually) so I suppose they could be reading my openness to such conversations. Hard to know – we’re so oblivious to body language, even when we’re reading it and reacting to it! Funny humans.

So, introvert. Now that I know this about myself, a lot of things are clearer to me. Like, why I like living alone! Should be obvious, right? Well, for many reasons this wasn’t obvious to me, until it was.

My work situation drains my social battery pretty completely, so I really don’t hang out with people much, or often, aside from my volunteering at the sanctuary every Saturday. It’s a combination of needing to recharge, and having the friend-connection need fulfilled by the 4 hours I’m with friendlies at the sanctuary.

So my social life is pretty much non-existent, and I really like that.

But sometimes someone will invite me to do something. My first reaction, almost always,is “nooooooooooo.”

I let it roll around in my mind, like you would a really good chocolate or wine on the tongue. Trying to get a feel for whether I really want to do this…whatever it is.

The thing is, this is hard for me. I go through the “would I regret going? would I regret *not* going?” And the answer for both is “no.” I’d have fun if I went (almost definitely) and I would not feel like I’d missed out on anything at all if I didn’t go.

So, to go or not to go.

Recently a friend invited me to go with her to a winery. I agreed, even though a) I hate being in the car and it means hours in the car and b) I was really ambivalent about whether I wanted to go.

I’ve been in a sort of bad mood all week (unrelated to the upcoming winery trip), and so when I got an email suggesting that we meet at her place instead of at the place right off the highway, I really wanted to email back and cancel the plans altogether. Really really really wanted to do that.

Luckily my phone is about 90% unusuable these days (ghost touches, so it’s pretty much insane), so I couldn’t respond right away. I thought about it. Thought about it way more than it is really worth thinking about, to be honest. It’s only 4 more miles of driving. Well, 8 total. Thing is, I met her at her place once before, and those are some slow 4 miles to drive. Annoying miles. And then I had to get a tour of her place before we could go, and … I just really don’t want to drive those 4 miles. I. do. not.

I sort of came to realize that those 4 miles are a deal-breaker for me. I know that sounds unreasonable, but that’s how it is. If I drive those 4 miles, I’m going to resent the hell out of them. And the reason this was suggested was because we’d planned on stopping to pick up a vegan pizza on the way, and apparently her place is more on the way than the highway is. Which also makes me think that it’s just going to take THAT much longer to get to this damn winery.

Man, I can complain, can’t I?

But that’s when the real solution became obvious to me – cancel the pizza idea. Done.

I guess we all have these lines, whether we realize they’re there before they’re crossed or not. It seems so arbitrary, doesn’t it? What difference does 4 miles make when I already have to drive 30 to get to the exit on the highway where we meet?

I guess, for me, it’s the difference between canceling plans or not. Knowing that, I can adjust, I can react accordingly. I just can’t drive those 4 miles.

A friend turned me onto a podcast by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin called Back To Work. It’s…basically about helping people get unstuck. Getting people into the habit of creating.

Merlin spent the first episode asking “what haven’t you shipped?” You know, what’s stopping you from completing all those projects that were important enough to start.

One of the things he talks about over and over is sitting down to write, and essentially writing until your brain sort of turns off and your writing can really come out. I am sort of skeptical, I admit, but I’m going to give it a try. I mean, I know our brains are complicated, and one of the things we (or I) tend to do is overthink. And then doing is hard. So you start doing until the overthinking part stops, and before you realize it, you’re writing!

He has a post called “Making the Clackity Noise”, so that’s sort of what I’m basing it on, though I also know that this comes from a long line of others who talk about this. Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”, and others.

Basically, you have to sit down and *do* in order to create something, and do regularly in order to finish.

I don’t know where I’m going with all this, but for now I don’t care. I’m just going to write to see what comes out. As Merlin would say, to see what falls out of the keyboard.

I like that imagery. Little bits of ourselves (not just the food we eat at the computer, right?) hidden away in our keyboards.

I am mostly interested in Photography these days, and I have very little confidence in my writing. Though let’s be honest, I work in an office, and I’ve always been surrounded by people – managers! – who have atrocious English skills. And I don’t mean that English is their second language. I mean that English *is* their first language, but that doesn’t mean they actually know the difference between a comma and a period. Or any of the other basic stuff I was under the misunderstanding that we all graduated 5th grade knowing. So I have confidence in writing in that way. I at least usually know the difference between a period and a comma.

But as a kid, I was totally into writing. Creative writing was something I loved. My brother, 3 years older than me, had some learning disabilities. My parents managed this in a variety of ways. Tutors, of course, were huge, but this had to be extended all through summer too, because it was pretty much fatal to my brother’s education to have a 3 month gap for him to back slide. I don’t want to say it was forgetting – he’s not actually a stupid person – but something about the way he learns (or did then – maybe it’s not as pronounced now that the brain had a chance to develop and grow up) means he doesn’t really use buliding blocks the way the rest of us do. Everything is linear. So to learn to drive a car, he could not — COULD NOT — use what he knew about driving a boat. It’s just not how his brain works. He couldn’t use his understanding of addition to learn subtraction. It’s like everything is a completely discrete thread of knowledge, and has to be developed independently, like these discrete threads actually live in different brains and can’t be referenced.

So it takes him longer to learn things. And the typical backsliding that we all do when we take a break made it close to impossible for him to catch back up.

In other words, summer tutoring was essential for his progression.

And since my parents both worked and they had no idea what to do with me — their little star pupil who never had to work at all to get the good grades, the little annoying kid who out of boredom (and let’s face it, jealousy) had my mom teach me the math they were drilling my brother on…and who found it easy within minutes, despite that my brother was still struggling (and I mentioned – 3 years older, right?). So anyway, I had to tag along. And since they were then paying a tutor to essentially be a baby-sitter, they had the tutor tutor me as well.

But what do you tutor a kid in who doesn’t need tutoring?

It was creative writing. I still remember this worm shaped paper that I had to use to make…I don’t know, a story? I remember being a little baffled. I had no understanding of what was expected of me, but hey, I was a kid, and this didn’t bother me at all. Also, I knew that I was only there because my *brother* was the one needing tutoring. What could go wrong, right? Total no-pressure situation.

And I had fun with it. The tutor was an awesome woman, and she was very encouraging. So I wrote more. I would come up with goofy little stories, and read them to my mom.

That was part of who I was for a really long time. I don’t know exactly when that stopped. I think that maybe it was when grades started to matter. That was about the same time that teachers got more harsh and less encouraging, though my grades remained excellent. Actually, my grades *became* excellent then, when it mattered. I was a piss-poor student right up until then. I was bored, so why put any effort into it, right?

But in high school, not only did my grades become excellent, I was also instructed to essentially ignore my accomplishments.

My brother, you see, was a piss-poor student always. He worked *so much harder* for his C’s than I ever did for my A’s. I understood this. I mean, my mother explained it over and over, because she had to explain why I needed to shut up about my A’s, and not complain when they paid my brother for his (very very few) A’s and lavished praise on his B’s. We weren’t to talk about my A’s.

You know, I thought this was perfectly normal and acceptable. I agreed with my mom’s reasoning. And then in therapy, my therapist was like “do you think this is why you have issues with accepting praise and with recognizing your own accomplishments as an adult?”

Hm. DUH. Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t my parents?

So anyway, creative writing. I don’t have it in me these days. That is, I don’t pursue it. I don’t have confidence in it. And anyway, my main thing is photography.

Even there, I find myself stuck a bit, a lot of the time. I read some pretty awesome blogs by some pretty awesome photographers (Chase Jarvis and Joe McNally especially). I have a bunch of books. I’ve been really focused on lighting these past months. The past year, really. I want to know how to handle lighting.

I went to this thing in DC a few months back – the Flash Bus Tour. AMAZING. Inspiring. Seriously, I went home and stuck that flash I don’t know how to use on my camera and started playing. I learned a lot, too, but I was very limited because my camera (6 or 7 years old at this point) … um, we’ll just say isn’t fully operational. The pop-up flash doesn’t pop up. The hot shoe is apparently a little coated in crud, so the connection with the flash doesn’t always work. I can’t do any of the really fun stuff like remote flash because, well, because nothing quite works all the way completely with my camera these days. Not nothing nothing – I can take pictures, and 95% of the time that works.

But I need a new camera. I’ve been thinking for a year now about what I want, and I made my decision about 6 months ago, but didn’t feel like I needed to actually make the purchase quite yet. (This is a great budget tip: don’t spend money. Saves you tons of money, trust me!) And the there were earthquakes and nuclear disasters and floods and tsunamis in Japan and Thailand and I think pretty much everywhere that cameras are made. So the camera I want and am now (finally!) ready to actually push the “purchase” button on…isn’t available. Anywhere.

So that will have to wait. And in the meantime, I’m not getting the rest of the equipment I need to play with the flash stuff (and I’m not talking super elaborate – just enough to be able to get the flash off the camera) because there’s just no point until I have a full-working camera.

But in listening to Merlin talk about getting started, and that we need to stop organizing our index cards and perfecting our productivity system, and to just get out there and do our stuff…I realized exactly why I have found all the lighting books I’ve been collecting so damn frustrating. None of them are worth a damn if I’m not actually doing.

So anyway, here’s 1400 random words. I’m going to try to make the clackity noise regularly, maybe even daily. I thought about doing the 750words.com thing, but the statistics they automatically produce wig me out. I don’t like it. And the morning writing thing? Not for me. The only thoughts in my head in the morning are “feed cats, brush teeth, wash face, put in contacts, put lunch in pannier, check weather, get dressed, ride to work.” I just don’t have a lot of mental chatter going on in the morning. And then I ride, and that’s the best flushing mechanism I’ve ever run across for getting rid of mental chatter! So there’s just nothing there for me with the 750words deal.

But the clackity noise…I can try that. Not sure why I’m posting it anywhere, other than that I’m pretty confident that no one reads this blog, and I have to put it somewhere, right?

Right.

So there you are. 1570 incoherent words! Enjoy.

Today was another ride just around the neighborhood.

It was hard to motivate to leave (see adorableness above and below), which is something I struggle with in general. It is a frustrating struggle because I am not certain whether I want to regain some of my motivation to explore, or whether I feel like I should want to regain some motivation to explore. It makes sense to me that I enjoy being home a lot on the weekends – I hardly get to be at home during the week! I like my home, I love my cats, I love being at home with my cats.

Still, it was good to get out. I don’t spend much time wandering in my neighborhood, so it is fun to take another look around. To remember that we have a little path that wanders through along a little stream, to see my little world from a slightly different perspective.

Once I was on my way I had a good time. The weather was gorgeous, it is finally feeling like spring (again).