Category Archives: links

Every single one of us wants to be believed

“But
Trying is the point of life
So don’t stop trying

Promise me.”

Amanda Palmer’s got a new song out called “Bigger on the Inside,” and while some of her musicianship is not always my bag, her words always are.

I’ve also been reading her “The Art of Asking,” slowly, in bits and pieces, because it breaks me open with its honesty and straightforwardness in a way that other great writers on vulnerability do (like Brene Brown), but even moreso.  Her perspective is about learning how to make art and silence our inner critic long enough to let ourselves create; it’s about learning how to ask others for help, how to ask without fear, and how our creative drive and our need for interconnection stems from a need to “be seen, understood, accepted, connected.  Every single one of us wants to be believed.  Artists are often just louder about it.”

Yes.  Every single one of us wants to be believed.  Sometimes it just takes us a while to find our voices.

Why I don’t “like” many things– a call to comment

Schmutzie has a great post here about quitting the “like” option on FB and how it changed her feed and her interactions with people for the better.  It reminds me of blogging 1.0, when we were all on blogger and there WAS NO LIKE BUTTON AND WE ALL USED NETSCAPE for a browser AND WE LIKED IT (ahem) THAT WAY.  Uphill, both ways, on a 28.8 bit modem.  Rah.  Hipsters on my internet lawn.

I say in my “about” page that I don’t “like” back a lot of people who stop by & like posts– and that’s not because I don’t appreciate that you stopped by & took the time to read, but because I am a bit of a blog-luddite-curmudgeon, and, while I admit, my time is limited and I am really bad about being social at visiting everyone who stops by and leaving comments, (and thank you, again, for visiting) I started blogging when you either lurked or took the leap to leave a comment and engaged and took the risk of either being ignored by the big name bloggers out there, or of making good friends for life with your fellow denizens of the ‘tubes.

I have re-made the commitment to reply back to everyone who does leave a comment– and now I need to take that next step again and not just reply but visit back (or email, for those of you who do not have blogs, *gasp*) for everyone who comments, and to make the time to explore and see about expanding that internet circle from the one I started back before there were mobile platforms and a laptop still weighed over ten pounds.  : )   So– no, I won’t “like” your blog.  But if you leave a comment or question, I will reply, and I will get out of my curmudgeonly shell and visit, just like at the dawn of the tubes when there was no like button at all.

I’m going to thumbs-down the thumbs-up.  How about you?

Ways of looking

I follow the English public thinker Alain de Botton on Twitter, and while I don’t always agree with him, he does provoke thought in his posts, books, and links, which of course is the whole purpose of being a live, working philosopher.  Yesterday, he tweeted about the “evils” of photography versus learning to draw and linked to an article in The Philosopher’s Mail about phone-photography versus sketching.  I don’t agree with the article, by and large.

The points I chose to take away from the article were:

1) we shouldn’t be living our lives through our gadgets, and that phone camera snaps shouldn’t substitute for being actually present in a moment, for noticing the minute details versus just collecting proof that Kilroy Was Here before we move on quickly, because there’s a (socially constructed and inherently false) schedule to keep to so that we can document to the next snapchattable moment, and,

2) by cultivating a “slow” skill such as drawing, especially when it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to us, we learn to take in the world in a different way, to truly notice the depth of beauty all around us and all the fine details that we can breathe in if we just look,

3) the ability to look and perceive both the whole and its details is important.

I agree, fully, that there are too many of us who are distracted in our everyday doings, but it didn’t start with the camera– perhaps with the telegraph, or same day post.  The fact is, life is fast and has been getting faster since the invention of the printing press (darn that Gutenberg, he had no value for the small quiet value of hand-inked vellum), and “drawing” as a way to stop & smell the roses is all well and good as a metaphor.  It’s not so great as a general moral proposition.

The points inherent in the article with which I take issue are, if not legion, ones that have been brought up by people far more articulate than me–

1) that a camera phone photograph cannot inherently capture finer details,

2) that the takers of camera phone photographs are all rushing, rushing, rushing, rather than– pausing to notice and focus in on that detail– the cornice of that building, that tulip, that couple embracing,

 

3) that the takers of camera phone photographs do not take the time, later, to share that captured detail with other people later, either in print or on one of the many social media sites where photographers congregate to share photos, look for those details they personally find beautiful and worthy of documentation and sharing (Instagram? Flickr?  Twitter?  Does Mr. de Botton not know about photography social media platforms, or that photos can be shared on the platform he uses?)

4) that all the details & moments captured on camera phones are inherently “shallow”– selfies or fashion shots or pictures of expensive meals or other consumables rather than externally objective objects of beauty– travel, nature, animals, smiles, architecture, “what a wondrous thing is man” when he manages to capture a macro of a peacock feather– when, in fact, a review of any mobile photography website will show you the whole range of human and earthly existence,

5) that drawing is inherently and always better than phone (or any other) photography, and that photography is not, therefore, art, however “art” is defined,

6) that camera phone photography, as an “art” and a “skill” is something that does not inspire the doer toward improvement, toward other forms of the art, toward more technique or toward gatherings with like-minded persons who likewise seek to gather & appreciate the beauty out there in the world.  (One word/hashtag: #instameet.)  I didn’t start out with a camera phone, for my own self, but my little point & shoots, and my desire to improve my own naked eye shots of the things out there in the world have certainly caused me to read more about how to frame, how to compose, whether to upgrade to a DSLR (and I did) so that I could capture better, finer, more beauty than I had been able to heretofore.  I have met and know many, many, many folks online & in person whose “gateway” drug was the point & shoot or the iPhone, but now they go on photo safaris & print out real art, real beauty, real moments that reflect our world as it is– or as we’d like it to be.

I have no problem, at all, with people who have the time and perseverance to sketch, paint, or engage in other forms of non-photography art.  I admire the talent and ambition and stick-to-itiveness that it takes.  But it is an unassailable truth that life does move quickly, and all the slowing down and taking time to smell the roses (or sketch them, as the argument would suppose) doesn’t change the fact that in the every day churn of it all, sometimes we don’t have the time to stop and sketch, because we haven’t got the concatenation of timing, life circumstances and courage to choose to do anything other than get to work and take care of our selves and our loved ones in mundane, material ways.

It would be nice, lovely, ideal, to live a more artistic, more reflective life in more moments over the spread of a lifetime– but sometimes, realistically speaking, a camera phone shot and five minutes to notice whatever image you saw is all the time you have in a day to notice the beauty and humanity around you.

Five minutes’ pause on your way is better than none.

I also freely admit that there are a hell of a lot of pretty pictures of flowers and beloved children and cats of no particular artistic inspiration on the internet and in photo albums all over the world– though I would also argue that art isn’t always the point of a photograph, because it is also useful in capturing a moment, preserving a memory, and whether it does it with more or less technique or artistry is less important than the preservation itself.

In that regard, photography in its speed does what sketching (and those without patience or time or talent or any combination of those you choose to combine in your moral judgment) does not– it preserves a moment in time which, looked back upon, recalls happiness, even if it is done artlessly.

I’d also argue that today’s selfie might be someone else’s coup de foudre— art is at least partly subjective, after all, and however much sarcasm someone else might inflect the term with, to the aficionado, an iPhone shot of “nail art” has meaning and increases the general quantum of happiness– if some of it is at the shallow end of life’s pool, why does everything have to be deep? I’m not trying to say that there is no objective truth, or larger, important set of truths, but if a shallow happiness works for that person in that particular moment, or if something that seems trite to one person is meaningful to another– well.  I’m happy to wait while someone is standing on the sidewalk before me, taking a camera phone shot of something they find to have meaning.

 All pictures taken on my Google Droid phone, and uploaded to my Flickr, via Instagram & its various automatic filters.

 

(Links) Narcissist parents

Raeyn at The Scarlet B blogs thoughtfully & consistently about all kinds of things, including family/life balance and managing the ups & downs of Bipolar 2, but recently she’s been posting about narcissist parents & terminating the relationship, with helpful links to different blogs, including this one at The Invisible Scar.

It’s a subject I’m all over the place about, and still feeling raw & aswirl when I try to write something down.   Continue reading

Side effects may include (not as described)

Any drug is going to have side effects.  Any psychoactive drug, either when it stops being effective, or causes you to be in overdose (the “mild,” not-dead, not in the hospital yet kind of OD) often has side effects that mimic the symptoms you’re trying to treat.  Sleep disturbance, anxiety, paranoia, lethargy, apathy, catatonia, insomnia, suicidal ideation, you get the drift.  In something cyclical like bipolar, it’s hard to tell if it’s the meds that aren’t working, if it’s too much meds, if it’s the change in season (bipolars’ diurnal & circadian rhythms are really sensitive and prone to getting extremely messed up), or some external stressor that has set off a dip or upswing in mood– but it can be a slow creep, and sneaky, and even practiced, self-aware, general ly pretty in-control folks can find themselves in the midst on an onset before they realize they’re having an episode.

And then there are the physical side effects.  These may or may not be listed on the drug label– my own experience since 2007 is that some of the side effects are always going to be idiosyncratic to the patient, especially when dealing with psychoactive drugs, which doesn’t mean they still aren’t real to the patient, and that some aren’t listed because they’re not widely known yet, because a lot of bipolar drugs are off-label anti-convulsants, and so, obviously, bipolars’ reactions are going to be a little different from people with seizure disorders.  (This is why patient med wikis like crazymeds are so integral to feeling like you aren’t totally nuts when you experience symptoms that are listed nowhere official.)  I mentioned the sleep disturbance– so, multiply that by weeks or months, and then see how your joints and muscles ache because you’re exhausted.  See how your patience and moods fray, and your sense of humor disappears (and makes your mood swing even worse). Sometimes, there’s muscle stiffness, so painful you can’t turn your neck, and it brings tears to your eyes to touch your own skin to rub in some arnica cream or Tiger Balm or whatever other placebo-self-care balm you think might possibly help.  Some of the meds make you clench your teeth so that you wake every day with a headache or walk around with a permanent frown that turns people off because they think you hate everyone.  (You don’t.  Just your meds, the same ones that make it possible to get out of bed everyday and come to work to frown at everybody in sight.)  They dry out your mouth, or leach out salts so that all you do all day is drink water and crave a salt lick.  Sometimes, the meds dry out your skin, so that no lotion is thick enough and you have to go to the work bathroom three times a day to lather up just so you won’t claw your skin off.  (But it’s spring, and you’re hitting a middle age hormone change, it makes sense that your normal spring dry patch would just be worse this year, that’s what you tell yourself…)  You take ibuprofen to deal with the headaches, the jaw pain, the muscle stiffness, the aches of exhaustion, and suffer the bruising that comes with too much NSAIDs as a result.  Another side effect.  Not so bad, right?

And then you realize, maybe after the fourth time you’ve closed you’re office door because you’re leaking tears again, OH, I’m having a mood swing and I need to adjust my meds and maybe I’m also overdosing because– what’s this weird rash on my chest?  DO NOT IGNORE THE RASH ON YOUR CHEST, DO NOT IGNORE A RASH ANYWHERE, I REPEAT, especially if it’s raised & it itches, take a benadryl right away.  Cut your dosage, call your shrink, look up your meds to see if you need the ER, if your shrink does not call you back, call your primary care doctor, call your therapist– tell someone your meds do not work and you need to get off them and onto something else, pronto.  Keep calling until someone calls you back.

I try to not completely discontinue meds– withdrawal sucks cold turkey & it has dangers all of its own– but so does strong suicidal ideation, and sometimes complete cessation of meds = cessation of strong urges, plus sometimes there is not enough klonopin/other anti-anxiety med du jour (or sometimes, there’s just enough in exactly all the wrong ways) to make those wrong, ugly inner voices quiet down so you can hear something besides your mood swing.  A bridge medication is good, even if you still are going to feel, over all, pretty bad for a bit– because a bridge helps you cross the chasm, and if it makes you feel a little dopey, a little zoned out, a bit unable to spit the words out, a little less in touch with the finer feelings you’re going to have to deal with at some point– well, at least it gets you over the fiery pit part in the middle.  (That is a crappy metaphor.  Sorry.)

No one ever tells you this in the psychiatrist’s office.  I don’t know if it’s because they don’t take the meds so they don’t know (or because it’s unprofessional to admit they they feel your pain) or because they think it’s scare you to know that at some point, you’ll have to switch it all up, and that at a certain point you’ll have to start down a new road, your old bridges burning behind you– such that you’ll never start off in the first place.  I do know now, what I didn’t a while ago– the lessons learned smell like ash, but they still illuminate, even if it is just at the brink.  (Oh, crap, it’s a rash– that’s an illumination.)

Book review: Jill Lepore’s Book of Ages

I got out of Goodreads because: Amazon and have moved over to BookLikes– I am trying to do better there about posting reviews of books as I finish so that I actually finish.

My review of Jill Lepore’s Book of Ages is there, but the TL; DR  version is this– the book is worth reading even if the first third was a slog of Old Testament-style recitation of Franklin & female forebears, there was a bit too much Benjamin for my taste (and I thought he came out as kind of a douche) and I thought Lepore was a bit heavy-handed in foreshadowing/contrasting the whole “Judith Shakespeare”/Room of One’s Own problem that Jane faced.  Jane was a funny, engaged, interesting lady who put up with a lot, and Lepore’s research shed interesting insights onto Revolutionary Boston & everyday living during Revolutionary times through all the secondary sources she used that I hadn’t read elsewhere.  I’ll probably dig up the biography of Abigail Adams (if I don’t read the Margaret Fuller one) next, and see where it takes me.