My Firewall Needs Reinforcement

I keep getting ads on Facebook for audiobooks that I am VERY uninterested in. It’s really throwing off my groove when I’m just trying to watch videos of puppies running down stairs and listen to women telling their stories of badassery.

Here’s the series that keeps popping up:

  • How to Build Self-Discipline to Exercise: Practical Techniques and Strategies to Develop a Lifetime Habit of Exercise
  • How to Build Self-Discipline: Resist Temptations and Reach Your Long-Term Goals
  • Self-Discipline Dieter: How to Lose Weight and Become Healthy Despite Cravings and Weak Willpower

This is extremely uncool. I don’t know what Facebook knows about me, but if you’ve been following along the past week, you know my phone has also been really judgmental lately. Between my phone’s food-shaming alerts and Facebook’s ads for what seem to be phony self-improvement audiobooks, I’m not sure what kind of vibes I’m sending out into the world. I’m not specifically looking for these kinds of things, but I feel like I might need to reassess a few things. This is not what I’m about, and yet, it keeps finding it’s way to me.

Is it because the internet world knows my demographic and believes I’m obsessed with my own self-discipline? Is it because I sometimes like to watch fun kickboxing videos while I flail around embarrassingly in my basement? Is it because I google a lot of dessert recipes and Google-search engineers think I have a sugar addiction?

I mean, sure, I may have uncontrollable cravings, weak willpower, and an inability to resist the temptations of my couch, but I don’t really feel like those are issues that rank higher than taking down the patriarchy, destroying racial inequality, and righting our world’s economic wrongs. I’m offended that this is what the technological world thinks I need to see. I know I played a part in bringing this craziness into my feed. I’ve read about insane celebrity diets or weird cleanses online, so somewhere an algorithm has led this nonsense to me. I can ignore it, but I’m more bothered because there’s someone else out there getting these ads and feeling worse, feeling like they probably need to buy some self-help tape to curb their eating habits, feeling like they probably should join Weight Watchers if their phone keeps pulling up the ad.

I’d like to enlist the help of a kind billionaire to right this wrong. If someone could fund a massive ad-spamming project that only sends out messages of self-worth and joy, that might make a dent in this ridiculous trend. Here are some of my ad ideas:

  • Feeling kinda blech? It’s ok. We all are.
  • You are awesome, even if that person driving behind you on the freeway doesn’t agree.
  • Eat what makes you feel good because you’re going to die eventually anyway.
  • You are right where you need to be. Unless you’ve been kidnapped. If you’ve been kidnapped, call for help.
  • Don’t think too much about that weird thing you just did. There will be a different new weird thing for you to think about soon enough.
  • It’s ok to be alone on a Friday night. At least you don’t have to listen to Fred explain his theory about the ending of Lost again.

Anyone know a benevolent advertising executive?

Free Your Mind Of Doubt and Danger

A lot of people are meditating now. We’re all very stressed and we just don’t know what to do with all this pent up frustration and uncertainty. As a group, we seem to have decided the best way to quiet our minds is to sit silently for a set amount of time and then tell other people how silently we sat. I’m not convinced people even know what meditation actually is. I mean, some people definitely know, and to those people, I say “Ok, already. We get it. You’re better than us.” On the other hand, I don’t believe that all the men in beanies and women in overalls currently sitting crosslegged and humming in a charming Brooklyn studio have got it figured out.

Admittedly, I’m no expert. My entire experience with meditation consists of an app I once downloaded on my phone and a half-hour session with some very kind monks. I know it’s not the best range, but it feels sufficient enough for me to form a strong and unwavering opinion.

First, I downloaded a popular app. It tried to get me to breath in time with its visual aid, but I couldn’t sync up with the system, so it just turned out to be very stressful and I started to hyperventilate after messing up my natural breathing patterns. Then it kept trying to convince me to buy better versions of the app. That’s when I really started to see the truth in this whole business.

Still though, I was willing to give it a second chance. Last month, Dave and I spent the night at a beautiful Buddhist monastery in the mountains of Japan. As part of our stay, the monks offered to teach us how to meditate. I thought, “Well, a monk has to be a better teacher than a tiny robot computer.” So off we went. We sat on little pillows and learned how to hold our hands, cross our legs, and guide our thoughts. He was a pro and very kind about the whole thing, so I felt like I was in good hands.

Our monk told us we had to keep our eyes half-opened and half-closed, both to represent the space between this physical world and the universe and also to keep us from falling asleep. Because, he said, a lot of people fall asleep. Not a great selling point, sir.

Besides that, there were a few key things that really threw a wrench in my success.

Apparently, I was off on the wrong foot from the start. I was talking to Dave after the experience and sharing with him my disappointment in my own performance. He said, “Yeah, it was really difficult to focus on the letter A the whole time.” I said, “What? What about the letter A?” He said, “The monk told us to think of the letter A. It’s the holiest letter to them and their focal point for meditation. He told us all about it.” I replied, “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” So I guess I can add “poor listener” to my list of faults.

I also couldn’t keep my eyes in that half-way state. It gave me a headache and that seemed very counter to the goal of the exercise, so I gave up. (Also probably giving up is counter to the goal of the exercise?) Instead, I stared at the fire in front of us. Not because I was trying to find an otherworldly image on which to focus, but because I was just really cold. I was dreaming of making s’mores, grabbing a flannel blanket, and what I would do if the fire started to spread across the room at a rapid pace. The fire inspired a lot of diverse reactions in me, none of them sanctioned meditative thoughts.

Most importantly, it was impossible for me to quiet my mind. At any given point, I have three to seventy-eight thoughts swirling around my brain. It’s not an easy storm to weather, but it’s mine. This is exactly the thing that drives people to meditate. It’s supposed to cure people like me from the harrowing effects of our spiraling minds. But this seems like nonsense to me. Put me in a quiet room with nothing to do and tell me to think about a sound? Does that seem like a recipe for success for someone with my infliction? It’s not. It is a recipe for disaster.

I was an absolute and complete failure. I know, I know, the whole point of meditating is to eventually get to the point where it works, but at what cost? How long must I suffer in order to get there? And is it really worth it? Who ever said a quiet mind is better than a cluttered mind. You can hide a lot of cool stuff that you or someone you know might need one day inside a cluttered mind.

Here are some of the things I thought about while I was supposed to be focusing on the letter A, counting my breaths, and considering my quiet connection to the universe:

  1. It’s pretty cold in here, right?
  2. Aren’t all these other people cold? How can they not be cold?
  3. They’re probably cold and just pretending like they aren’t. Maybe I look like I’m pretending. Ugh, just another example of us all pushing the facade of perfection on one another.
  4. I wonder what we’re going to have for dinner. I hope there’s soup. Noodle soup would be best, but if it’s just regular soup with rice on the side, that would be fine too. Who invented soup? Probably someone who just accidentally spilled their water glass all in their food but was super embarrassed about it so just pretended like that’s how he wanted to eat it.
  5. These monks are very good inn keepers. Maybe some of them really just wanted to run a B&B, but they didn’t have the start-up capital, so they’re were like, “Well, guess I better go be a monk at one of the monk inns.” That seems like a big sacrifice for your dreams, but you know what they say—nothing comes between a man and his innate need to provide warm and comfortable lodging to strangers.
  6. When are we going to walk through the cemetery? It’s probably haunted. Maybe this whole place is haunted. What would a monk ghost be like? Probably super chill. He’d just sit quietly next to you and listen to you sleep. Wait, that’s creepy. I bet he’d respectfully sit outside your door while you sleep. This is definitely the best place to be if you’re going to get haunted.
  7. Monk would make a terrible monk. He’d be super good at the rituals but super bad at sitting on this pillow forever.
  8. Is Dave really doing this? He hasn’t moved at all.
  9. That fire looks a little precarious. What if it falls and spreads? These mats seem pretty flammable. The people in the back seem like panickers. That doesn’t bode well for us all exiting in an orderly fashion. But maybe I could break the paper walls and escape on my own. Would the monks be mad if I ripped their fancy walls? How could they be? The whole place will be on fire. They’ve got bigger fish to fry.
  10. Is Dave seriously still doing this?
  11. Someone moved. Ha. At least I didn’t move.
  12. Someone else moved. These people are so weak.
  13. I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be comparing my meditative state to these other people. Even though I’m obviously better at looking like I’m meditating.
  14. Is Dave actually dead? Can you die sitting up?
  15. If you die sitting up in a room this cold, could you just freeze that way forever? How would they put you in a casket? Who cares. Caskets are really not eco-friendly. Why do people still do that? Who wants to be lined up in the dirt with a whole bunch of strangers. I hate strangers. I don’t even like sitting in a line with these strangers here right now. I am not interested in being stuck next to more strangers for all eternity.
  16. How long do these monks meditate each day? Do they wish they were watching tv instead? Or eating pretzels? Can monks even watch tv? Do they watch Monk?
  17. I wonder if I have any pretzels in the room. I should bring them on our cemetery tour.
  18. Is it disrespectful to bring snacks to a cemetery? It probably is.

And on and on and on. Overall, I would say I failed miserably at meditation. And if I can’t do it at a Buddhist monastery with a master teacher, should I really even keep trying? The monks say, “Yes, you definitely should. You will not master it in one day. That’s why it’s called a practice.” But what do they know.

Livin’ the Panda Life

I’ve been watching a lot of baby panda videos. They’re ridiculous and adorable. I’m just ridiculous, but I do think we still have plenty in common. Here’s are just a few ways we’re alike:

1. I make sure to stay a little squishy to prevent serious harm from my many accidents.
2. I tend to walk around without looking where I’m going.
3. I’m annoyingly persistent.
4. I wear a lot of black and white.
5. I eat mostly green things.
6. Sometimes I fall down and it takes me an unusually long amount of time to get back up.
7. I like to sit around all day and look at stuff.

So I’m pretty much a giant panda, and I’m now in the market for a team of caretakers who will throw apples at my face and carry me around. Generous benefit package if you’re into chopping down bamboo and having someone cling to your leg all day.

While You Were Out

DoughnutMessage

I’ve been away for a while, both from this blog and from home. I know you’ve been wishing I was here posting my thoughts and sending them out to the interwebs. There was nothing that could be done though, I was just too busy with all kinds of wild and crazy things. What wild and crazy things, you say? Here’s an incomplete list:

  1. Eating fancy donuts in New York from a food truck I’d been trying to find for literally years. I think this means I’ve accomplished all I can this summer.
  2. Eating non-fancy but delicious bagels in New York, because New York.
  3. Eating bad fake meatloaf in San Francisco. I thought San Francisco was supposed to be the hipster capital of the country, but I was wrong. Turns out, it’s mostly just people who think they’re modern geniuses.
  4. Eating great tacos in San Francisco. I considered smuggling the tortillas home with me but they snuck into my belly too fast.

Ok, let’s be honest here. I’ve been doing a lot of eating. We can move on. Here are some non-food related activities:

  1. Binge-watching a great show on Netflix about people getting sucked into an alternate universe. Consequently, watching the lights flicker in my house suspiciously.
  2. Catching Pokemon, obviously.
  3. Avoiding a stranger who decided he’d like to take a walk with me for “no reason.” I don’t think so, stranger. I know that reason and I’m not about to get kidnapped by some creepy dude. ABV. (That means Always Be Vigilant. I made it up just now but it’s legit.)
  4. Spending the night at the St. Louis airport, freezing and uncomfortable. Then spending the day in my tiny house, warm and cozy.
  5. Melting away in the swamp that is my city. For some reason, this melting isn’t helping me get in any better shape.
  6. Fighting the final throes of a battle against a nerve-attacking bacteria that really wanted to make its way to my brain. After the donuts, this is probably my second biggest accomplishment of the summer.
  7. Planning an end-of-summer trip for Dave and I to check out from the world and wander the forests of the Pacific Northwest like dirty hippies.
  8. Avoiding aggressive raccoons. Don’t worry, full story on these dangerous beasts to come.

So that’s just a snippet of what’s been keeping me from the internets these past couple weeks. Luckily, I’m now home and attached to technology, so here I am. You can end all hunger strikes and search parties. If you didn’t even noticed my absence, congratulations on having a full and adjusted life. You don’t have it rub it in by gloating to the rest of us. Jeez. Show a little compassion.

Bear Bait

SpiderFriend

Last weekend Dave and I went camping to celebrate the wedding of some lovely friends. We stayed in cabins, danced in the woods, and ate blueberry pancakes. It was wonderful, but I almost died. A lot. It turns out that while I love the wilderness, it does not love me. Here are just a few ways it tried to kill me:

  1. A spider the size of my palm attempted to bunk with me. Dave spotted the huge, hairy intruder right before we went to sleep. He’d probably been living there for awhile and thought we were the intruders. I tried to explain to him kindly that we needed to stay there for the night. I told him I respected him and his value in nature, but I really just didn’t want to share a bedroom with him. I asked if he could kindly please leave. He didn’t listen. It was super rude. He just laid there and stared up at me with his million tiny eyes. Seeing that the dialogue wasn’t getting us anywhere, I decided I had to take more assertive action. I captured him and released him nicely into the woods. Ok, it was not so nice. I captured him, walked outside to release him nicely, but I forgot the flashlight, so I got scared and just flung him away from me and ran away. I was afraid he would return for his revenge, but I woke up unscathed the next morning, so I guess he found another home.
  2. I almost died of a burst bladder both nights we were at the cabins, since I was too afraid to leave the cabin the middle of the night. This was at least partly fueled by the giant spider incident.
  3. When packing up our things on Sunday morning, we noticed a group of wasps outside the cabin. And then inside the cabin. And then we found their home hanging off the roof of the cabin. We decided it would be best to leave and never return.

On a non-wilderness-related note, I also went into a mild sugar coma from the pounds of carrot cake, late night s’mores, and cherry chocolate ice cream I consumed over the weekend. I think I still might be in a sort of sleepwalking state as I type this. It’s not pleasant, but given the opportunity, I’m sure I’d do it again.

Overall, I’d say the outdoor adventure was a success, given that I’m still alive and I wasn’t eaten by a bear. That’s pretty much my measure of success for all activities.