Fact vs Fiction

I read an article in my school’s paper the other day about people apparently being up in arms when musicians create personas for themselves, or perform in the “wrong” genre. (For the record, the piece argued against these complaints.) Apparently, if you don’t live in rural Appalachia, you are not allowed to so much as pluck a banjo or sing with even the slightest of twangs. No chanting if you’re not a monk. No rapping if you’re not gangsta. Because then you’re lying, and lying is a big no-no.

And yet, how many of us can claim we haven’t pretended to be someone we’re not in order to impress someone else or benefit ourselves? I mean, dating sites are notorious for the padding of various “attractions” and the minimizing of muffin tops. There are countless stories of embellishing résumés, or just re-wording it to make your job sound more important. I mean, finding a way to call yourself a technician of some sort apparently earns you huge brownie points, even when it’s well known that the word has experienced a sort of importance inflation to the point where it actually means very little.

The fact is, we routinely insert fiction into our lives. (Lame pun very much intended.) It’s not always in huge ways, but we do this because we as humans love to tell stories, and, even more than that, we want to be the heroes of our own. We want to show the world that we own ourselves, that we are capable and in control. We want to prove that we have a purpose, and that the world would not be the same without us. At the same time, we also want stories to compare and add to our own.

Maybe some of this is wrong, but I am attacking it from the perspective of a writer. I tell stories, or try to. It’s a trade of sorts. And it’s nuts how many times I’ve heard “write what you know”. I get it—first get good at what you have the skills for already, and those skills will translate into your future endeavors.

But the thing is, I know a lot more than people suspect. I know what the purple unicorns in my head look like. I know how sandpaper-y the skin of a demon is in my head. I know the scent of foods I don’t yet have names for. And I know them just as well as I know joy and grief and love and hate. I know them as well as I know my family and friends, because they are my own creations.

We all know what’s in our minds and in our hearts, and I don’t think that’s necessarily fiction; at least, not a bad fiction. What’s it hurt that someone who may never have seen sheets flapping on a clothesline in the prairie breeze sings about it, anyway? We all have fond memories of someone or something; a place we called home, or a person we felt at home with. What’s it hurt that those who sing of old myths and sagas never lived them? What’s it hurt that a fantasy author writes about creatures that don’t exist? It’s all a part of the human experience, and I think that’s beautiful, and, more to the point, valid.

Maybe that’s just me, but I’d like to think that there are more people who think this way; who understand that as necessary as it is to live in the moment, it is also necessary to dream of something more or something just plain different. Life is beautiful, but so, too, are dreams.

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Weird keeps us together

The boyfriend and I have some pretty weird (or at least random) conversations, as evidenced by “What’s Your Slug Doing?” In fact, something weird slipping into almost every conversation is the norm for us.

Take, for example, the mantis shrimp. It’s a pretty awesome critter, and, if The Oatmeal is to be believed, pretty terrifying. I want one. The boyfriend knows this, and yet, for some reason, he insists that this is not a good idea; something about how it can (among other things) break aquarium glass. I told him I’d be careful with it—I’d wrap its scary bits in, like, diamond or something and feed it by hand. He said that it wasn’t me he was worried about. Which is probably true, though I can be a bit of a klutz, myself. So maybe I can get a mantis shrimp plush or something—maybe a little glass figure. I’m sure such things exist.

There was a detour somewhere in there about how I would present the mantis shrimp much in the same way as those “It’s dangerous to go alone; take this!” moments, which led to Link (yes, of Legend of Zelda fame) smashing his way through everything with a mantis shrimp because they are just that badass. Despite all my tearful (My eyes were watering for some unrelated reason. They do that on occasion.) pleas, and all my awesome ideas, though, the answer still remains a very firm “no”. (Thankfully, my other pet requests trend towards normal: a corgi, a Maine coon cat, and a lionhead bunny. Bunnybunnybunny…)

On occasion, these pleas devolve entirely into some other nonsensical argument that eventually leads to utter ridiculousness. I think one of my favorite non-sequitur comebacks at the moment is “I EAT YOUR FACE!” I’ll leave it to your imagination just how that goes down.

Another slightly more playful one is “husky kisses”. If you’ve ever seen pictures of husky puppies, or seen them in action, you know that they love to nip each other’s muzzles. (Even if you have seen it, you should look at those pictures. SO CUTE.) If I recall correctly, this is actually a holdover behavior from wolves. I certainly don’t see this happen nearly as often with dogs that are less closely related to wolves, anyway. However, since humans don’t have the same sort of structure, the next best thing is clearly a nip on the nose, somewhere between a little peck of a kiss and “I EAT YOUR NOSE”.

After one of those happened, we somehow made the jump to the “insane sadistic psycho surgeon” from the boyfriend’s information ethics class. It was a pretty messed-up example taken to extremes, but it’s clear what the point was: pure hedonism is bad. (Because apparently, this is not entirely self-evident…)

So yeah, we’re weird, the boyfriend and I. It’s part of the attraction. It’s one of those things that makes our relationship (and, to be honest, most of my friendships) work. Being accepted for (or despite) all one’s flaws is astoundingly freeing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work on them, but it does mean that we can have a lot of fun along the way.

Word of the Day: Ambivert

For those not quite so versed in Latin, “ambi-“ means “both”, and “vert” derives from a word meaning “to turn”. I turn both ways: inward and outward. According to my homies Merriam and Webster, an ambivert is “a person having characteristics of both extrovert and introvert”.

A few days ago, I was surfing the net and came across this word in the context of how introversion/extroversion is not a black-and-white dichotomy. Of course, this made complete sense to me, and was nothing new. Considering that, on every personality test I’ve ever taken that took introversion and extroversion into account, I always wound up with almost a dead even mix of the two (usually slightly more extroverted, but not by much), and knowing the people I do who fall at both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between, I’d have to be an idiot not to accept this.

However, most of the people I know are pretty clearly one or the other. They either get their energy almost solely from being around people, or almost solely by taking some me-time to recharge. For me… it depends on the day. And, until now, I always thought something was, well, wrong with me. I mean, why didn’t recharging one way or the other work reliably for me? Why did it seem so random, the days when I longed for a raging (but sober) house party, and the days I wanted to crawl under a rock and talk to nobody? I could find no correlation with hormones. At the risk of a little TMI, there are days on my period where I want nothing but to read alone in my room, and days where I will actively seek out the company of as many people as possible because I crave it that much.

Of course, these days still are random; that hasn’t changed. But knowing that I’m not alone makes it a lot easier to deal with. Because ambiverts can’t control it, there are a lot of angsty posts on tumblr about how it’s a burden; never knowing what you’ll be one hour or day to the next, and often enough craving the opposite of what you are at the moment. It can be overstimulating, but even without having the word for it until now, I’ve learned to just sort of assess how I’m feeling and choose the best course of action from there.

I don’t always, though. I want to enjoy the time I spend with people, and if I feel like I have more of the introversion coming on, I generally try to ignore it and party for as long as I can. This, of course, generally means that the minute I’m alone, I collapse on my bed and either fall asleep or start bawling from how tired I am emotionally. It does suck for a while, but the time spent with others is well worth it. A good trick I’ve found is to engage only minimally if I know I’m going to be interacting with people for a long time and I’m not sure I can keep it up. I can generally deal with being in the middle of things as long as I’m not actually the center of attention.

But just having a word for it is so freeing, and so much better for justification. I don’t have to do the awkward hem-and-haw of “Well, I’m not really one or the other… I mean, I test as an ENTP, but my scores are so close between E and I… I never really know when I’m going to feel social and when I’m going to feel like a hermit..” and getting either a blank stare or, even worse, a stare of disbelief paired with some statement that indicates I must not know myself very well. I’ve spent a couple decades with myself; I think I know who I am, thanks very much. (This is ignoring the whole thing about how who you are changes completely once every seven years or so… or something like that. That’s another topic for another post. Maybe.)

At the end of the day, though, it’s just like everything else I am: something that makes me see the world slightly differently than everyone else does. Just another piece of the puzzle.

I’m just glad I have a name for it now.

I Take You At Your Word

I’d like to think I’m adaptable. I can usually handle a last-minute change of plans when I need to accommodate for something I didn’t count on happening. Often enough, I know it’s coming, and I brace myself for it.

That might seem like a funny choice of words, but the truth is, I hold people to their word. If they tell me they will be at a certain place at a certain time, I expect that they will be there when they told me they would. (Within reason—traffic in my area can be the suckiest of all suck, and I do not advocate for texting while driving. That’s what Bluetooth is for, and even then, it can mean driving distracted.) For me, it’s about respect. If I give my word to someone, I do my best to make good on it, and, if I find I can’t, I tend to apologize profusely and always tell them why. It’s because, whenever plans fail on me, I experience a pretty deep pang of disappointment. No matter how hard I try not to; no matter how far in advance I know it’s coming; no matter how reasonable and unavoidable whatever came up is, it’s still not a happy feeling for me.

Oddly, it’s very, very easy to get out of this: give me a general time frame, or say “most likely” or “probably”. The best one is “I don’t know yet, and I won’t until…/I don’t know when I’ll know.” That way, I know you’re thinking about something possibly coming up. I know I should think about that on my own, and I try to, but then it feels like I distrust a person who does wind up holding to their word, and I’m not sure what would actually be worse at that point.

I think part of this is reactionary. My family is perpetually late, or used to be. We’ve gotten better as us kids have gotten older—probably because we could all dress ourselves and help make and carry things years ago. Most of us are just bad at estimating how long something will take, which is probably why I allow myself so much extra time—too much, in fact. I’ll often sit around for upwards of ten minutes because I don’t want to get absorbed in something if I have to be or get going somewhere else soon enough. The most I’ll do is read something I’ve already read or listen to music or talk with anyone who’s around—something I can easily leave behind. Even when I know exactly how long getting ready will take, I am often ready extra early. At this point, it’s more habit than anything.

I don’t want to be a jerk or a snob because I think I’m better for holding to my word—I don’t think that, in fact. I understand that most people will by and large do their best within reason. (Hey, I can’t dictate when your gerbil will give birth or when your psychic will call you with a vague and ominous warning that you should stay in…) I’m just more stringent about it to myself. I will often go out of my way to make sure that things don’t change once I’ve set them up unless it’s a situation I can’t control. Maybe that’s a little weird—I’ve noticed that this isn’t something other people really do. Even then, sometimes, I fail. And I think, “Why should I hold other people to a standard that I can’t always meet? That’s really hypocritical.” Honestly, I don’t like this part of myself so much. I understand why people don’t do what they say they will. 99% of the time, they have really good reasons for it. Even when I don’t think they do, I try to cut them a break; I realize that I’m not the center of anyone’s universe except for my own. And then, I wonder if it’s because I let my world revolve around others so often that their actions seem to affect me so deeply. Regardless, I’m not sure how to start being more okay when things don’t work out. I’m horrible at giving up, and only slightly better at letting go. And when I think on it too much, I get upset at myself. I’m sure that, as life goes on, I’ll get better at moving on. But until then, I don’t know. I’ve just got to hang on, I guess.