Too Real

Last night my favorite zombie-related program came back. And oh was it great. My Walking Dead friends finally came together to start their journey against evil. It felt really appropriate for this moment in all our lives.

The group had been separated, both physically and emotionally, by some serious trauma. Things have not been good. A really terrible leader took over the land by intimidating a communities and making them think he was their only option for survival. Also by killing a bunch of people weaker than him. He’s putting everyone the group cares about at risk and destroying the relative progress they were achieving. It’s been a disaster and it felt kinda hopeless for awhile. Also maybe a little like real life. Or a lot like real life.

But now they’re back together and getting stronger—hopefully strong enough to take down the self-righteous, violence-prone current head honcho. Cause he’s got to go.

The episode was a great reminder that if we connect with the awesome people we love, we can battle evil—and we will probably win. It might get a little gross, what with all the stray rotting arms and legs flying through the air, but it will be worth it. If we look something terrible in the face, if we don’t ignore the horrors, and if we decide to actually do something about it, we can change the course of our lives for the better.

See, parents and teachers, we really can learn everything we need to know about life from TV.

No Thanks

I know there are a lot of important things going on in the world and I swear I will eventually write about one of them, but, for now, all I can think about is people hating on Lady Gaga for having a body.

Now, I’m not going to talk about the fact that Gaga obviously has a rockin’ bod. And awesome peel-off face sparkles. And bejeweled shoulder pads I wish I could wear while walking down the street. It’s clear she has a lot going for her and plenty of reasons to stand proud.

What we do need to talk about is the fact that a bunch of people felt the desire to pull down a talented woman, and they decided the best way to do that would be to insult her body. Because it didn’t look exactly the way they imagined it should look. Because talking about someone’s body is an easy way to keep from talking about things that actually matter. Because deflecting your insecurities onto someone else is a great way to avoid resolving them.

The most important part of this body-shaming isn’t the piece that was directed at Lady Gaga though. It’s the portion of that message that was directed at the rest of us. By insulting Gaga’s body, they’re insulting mine. They’re telling us we’re not good enough and saying we need to cover up a bit of ourselves to keep them from feeling uncomfortable. Well, it’s not our job to make sure these people are comfortable.

I say we respond like Gaga did. She did a badass job, and her music sales went up 1,000%. Then she told everyone that she’s happy with herself and she hopes we are too. So, from now on, when we pass a magazine cover created solely to make us feel bad or we turn on the tv and see a commercial for diet pills or we walk through a grocery aisle lined with low-fat, carb-free, sugar-free “snacks,” let’s turn our backs.

Reject that narrative. Other people’s opinions are not your reality. Someone else’s insecurities don’t need to be your own. Just say no.

Ok, that one is about drugs, but I think the message is the same. Turn your back on what’s trying to pull you down. Don’t get distracted by someone else’s self-doubt. We are powerful and we’ve got things to do.

A Month of Success

I have survived so many things in the last month. It’s been tough. I deserve like twelve medals. Here are just a few of the situations I’ve handled like a boss:

  • Cut open four avocados without hurting myself. That’s a lie. I cut open one and then Dave said, “What are you doing? Give me that.”
  • Stood shoulder to shoulder with over 500,000 people. Me. And all those other people. Together. I didn’t get trampled or kidnapped.
  • Safely exited my train station after some crazy guy with a knife was apprehended by the police. That sounds a little more dramatic than my actual experience, which basically involved getting stuck in the metro tunnel. But that poses it’s own dangers, so I think it warrants a mention.
  • Managed to read the news and keep functioning mostly like an adult.
  • Fell down the stairs at work. Ok, one stair. That’s why I survived.
  • Managed an anxiety-induced heart attack. It might not have been an actual heart attack, but don’t tell my body that. It knows the truth.
  • Escaped a sinking Titanic. Yes, it was a professionally staged event. Yes, I paid for the experience. But there were old-timey clothes and a vintage candlestick phone, so I think it’s possible the rising waters were also real.
  • Got my face drilled into by a madman (or my kind, old dentist—depends who you ask).
  • Ate so many jelly beans that it started to feel like my head was detaching from the rest of my body.

There are probably way more things I could include, but I think the list is still pretty commendable. I’m hoping I can meet the challenges of this next month with the same strength and fortitude.

Technology Is Hard

I’ve been away for a while, working on lots of stuff for my real-life job and a few things for myself. One of those things in the second category is a digital portfolio. It was super challenging, because technology is both a friend and an enemy. On the site, I have an awkward bio, some of the print and digital work I’ve done for National Geographic, and a link back to this blog. I’ve also integrated it into this site, so you can click on the link if you’re interested in seeing some of what I do when I’m not sitting on my couch or exploring the world.

In the process of creating my portfolio, I spoke to a lot of WordPress associates. I talked to eight of them and spent approximately 3,784 hours chatting about how to make this site work for me. Seven of those people were really nice. One of them was very rude and made me feel I was an idiot. For a few seconds, I started to feel bad. Then I remembered that I’m a valuable human being and I don’t need to let a stranger make me feel terrible. I quickly but politely ended that interaction. Luckily, the next person I spoke to was great, which is a lesson for life. Just keep moving until you find the great one.

The biggest problem of the entire process, besides my almost-total lack of comprehension, was Dave’s feelings of neglect. Apparently they’re lasting, because I just mentioned something about building a website and he said, “Psh, you’ll just chat with the WordPress people for seven hours and then say, ‘Oh, Dave, I picked a theme.'” I told him that maybe if he knew more about technology I’d talk to him. Then I threw chocolate chips at his face because that’s how we solve problems in this house.

Code Red

I’m convinced the Earth is revolting against us. Last week, China issued a environmental red alert in a bunch of regions because of the terrible fog, which really means smog in this case. Red is apparently the highest level they use and, right now, many areas that aren’t at red level are at orange.

Orange is obviously just below red. That makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make sense is why their lowest level in this environmental rating system is blue and not green. Silly Chinese government officials. Don’t they know green means go and go means get in your car for a drive and that’s certainly the beginning of this pollution ladder? I suppose we all have the right to choose whatever color scale we want. I’m drawn to grey and black, so my preferred scale might get a little confusing. Reporters would be like, “It’s code black on hostile rodents in the city today.” That sounds threatening, but it would really mean rat levels are way down. People would eventually get the hang of it. Still though, I think my grey scale makes more sense than the blue-yellow-orange-red system. Blue could maybe be used as the standard for tracking water pollutants, but it’d have to go blue-purple-pink-red. A red river is extra dangerous and plague-like, so people would take notice. Though in my experience when a river has reached maximum danger levels, it’s really a code murky brown. No one wants to say that on the news.

Well, that’s not where I planned to take this. Let’s get back to business.

The important thing here isn’t the color choices of the Chinese government. It’s the fact that we are filling our atmosphere with dangerous compounds that hurt our lungs and kill our plants. I don’t think anyone in China is reading this blog, and I’m not a climate scientist, but I feel like it’s unlikely my taking public transportation is going to help clear the smog over Hefei. That said, we should probably all care and do our best. Otherwise, we have to just admit we’re ok with kickstarting some kind of post-apocalyptic universe where we can’t see what’s right in front of our faces and giant smog monsters come out of the sky to attack us. Because that’s the next step in this story.

Insect-somnia

For the last week, I’ve been hearing this crackling noise every time I take a deep breath or yawn or move my face. That’s disconcerting on its own, but Dave made it much worse by telling me my worst fear had come true.

When I was young, I saw a clip of this sci-fi movie at my grandparent’s house. I don’t remember much of it, but there was a space queen who got angry at some space visitors. To punish them, she ordered her minions to bring out some earwig-like insects and put them in the offenders’ space helmets. Then the bugs crawled into their ears. Obviously. They’re named earwigs for a reason.

I don’t know what happened after that because I walked away from that nightmare. I was not waiting around to find out how the insect-brain-invasion situation resolved itself. Now, though, I always sleep with my ears covered, because I’m not a fool.

When I told Dave about my crackling ear, he said a bug had probably crawled into it. So now my life is over and I will never sleep again.

Thank You, 2016

It’s 2017. We made it around the sun and we still exist, so that’s something to celebrate. Before we put 2016 to rest though, let’s talk about the gift that was last year.

I know this is an unpopular view. A lot of terrible things happened in 2016. We continued the steady march toward our planet’s destruction. We decided to replace an amazing president with a horrifying one. Celebrities who we all loved died. There were way too many horrendous people doing horrendous things to other people. It’s been hard. On top of that, I know I’m not the only one who struggled this year. I see you all. Despite being gifted with some wonderful moments—new jobs, great trips, opportunities to celebrate love with the people I love, tons of nachos—my brain wasn’t particularly kind to me. Sometimes life is like that. Everyone is happy to step out of this hole of a year and leave it behind, and I am too, but hear me out.

Here’s the gift of 2016: we can move forward as the strong, amazing humans we now know we are. 2016 gave us an opportunity. The year was like a bad horror film, where half the world had just exclaimed, “Well, it can’t possibly get any worse than this.” And then, of course, it did. But as long as no one else utters those words, we can start the painful process of crawling out of the woods away from the monsters. It’s not going to be easy, because it’s still dark and monsters are really great at hiding behind trees, but we can get moving.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not painting these terrors in a rose light. I don’t believe that even bad things happen for a reason, unless the reason is that people make terrible choices or chance can be cruel. I don’t think 2016 was somehow fated to be terrible, so we’d all be able to grow. But we can decide this floor is a good place to stand up and plant our feet.

I’m holding my ground here, so 2017 better take notice. I’ve informed the less-kind half of my brain that she is no longer allowed to take up so much space. She’ll have something to say about that, I’m sure, but I’m forcing her to move to the basement apartment. My mind has really good tenant laws, so I can’t evict her, but I can make her feel like an unwelcome guest by stomping on the floors and playing my music too loudly.

I don’t want to set myself up for failure, so I’m not making any drastic resolutions this year. I’m just going to slap 2016 in the face and move along. And, you know what, it would feel terrible to slap something great in the face, so thank you, 2016, for being just terrible enough. Thank you for letting us show you just how badass we really are. Thank you for reminding us that we are strong. We took you on, and we’re still spinning. And what are you up to? Literally nothing. Because you’re gone.

Let’s all just be glad we aren’t on Neptune. This year would have lasted nearly 165 times as long as it did on Earth. We’re strong, but I don’t know if we’re that strong. Also, the storms are insane, there’s no oxygen, and the average temperature is always around -350°. So it could be worse.

Farewell, 2016. You weren’t great to me, but you’re going to make a great step stool.

Bit by Bit

My body is literally falling apart. I know I’m getting older, but I didn’t think it would hit so hard, so fast. I’m like a cellphone right at that two year mark—battery dying, power button failing, screen cracked. Someone is going to need to order a replacement soon.

Here are the pieces of me that are currently not functioning properly:

1. My teeth. I had to get a whole bunch of fillings because apparently I hate myself and I wanted someone to drill into my face for a couple hours. PSA: Floss. Just do it.

2. My left wrist and elbow. My wrist and elbow turn out to be a moderately effective tools for breaking a fall, but the move is not without sacrifice.

Dave and I were on a run to try and find this new fancy soccer field near us. We were kicking around the ball, and I tried to steal it from him at an inopportune time—that time being while he was on his phone and we were running on uneven bricks. I fell. I maintain that it was his fault and not the fault of my lack of coordination, inexperience playing any kind of sport with a ball, or the treacherous terrain. He maintains that it was an unfortunate accident. I think we all know who is right.

3. My right wrist and forearm. Same incident, but for this one the fence was the culprit. It had it out for me from the start. Dirty, rotten fence.

4. My left knee and hip. Same incident, obviously. It was the gift that kept on giving. Note to all: If you feel like collapsing on the ground, avoid jagged bricks.

5. My head. It’s been pounding since this morning, either from the drilling into my face earlier or the drilling into the ground in front of my house all day. Or it might be the twelve men yelling outside my door about the gas lines. I don’t know. No one else seems to understand when it’s gloomy outside, it’s quiet time. People just keep on going about their business, like they don’t even care about my plans for the day.

I guess this is just what happens when you’re old and clumsy. I need to start thinking ahead. I better buy one of those informercial wheelchairs that I can ride around the Grand Canyon.