The Lost Art of Not Doing a Damned Thing

Today’s post at GettingOutMore.org.  This one is about relaxing!  Enjoy!

Sometimes it’s hard to sit still. Work hard/play hard is a nice motto to live by, but there is a third element you should always consider, and one that is often difficult for me to attain: Rest hard.

It’s easy to get caught up in the go-go-go lifestyle, especially if you are like some of us and feel like you have been living under a rock for a long time. Either too much work or family responsibilities can make us feel like we are not getting out enough, and so when the weekend comes, you hit the play-button hard. But after a while even that can be exhausting, especially if you have kids and are making a point of dragging them along with you.

A lot of us have fallen into the trap of thinking we have to play as hard as we work, but if you are spending all of your time playing and working, you are really just working all of the time. Some days just need to be lazy days, and we have to refocus our minds to understand that we are okay with that.

Read a damn book

To read the rest, click here

What do I like?

One of the interesting things I have noticed about people is their collections.  I think in some ways, collections define people.  They are indicative of their interests, what drives them, inspires them, and eventually you could find yourself surrounded by various collections that represent all sorts of different facets of your personality and interests.

I had a Star Wars collection that was shown at the Denver Air and Space Museum, right next to a prop X-Wing.  I collected all sorts of Star Wars toys, movies, posters, and memorabilia.  I collected other things too.  Books.  Zippo lighters.  I had a few pipes my great grandpa used to smoke.  Swords. Knives. Antique rifles.  Army surplus.  Bottles. Coins.  T-shirts. Comic books. Oaxaca wood carvings.  Indian rugs. Hats. Antique typewriters. Things I had amassed when I was a young man, most of which was kept by my ex-wife during the divorce.  Community property is a nice idea, but it’s far from reality.

Most of these collections had begun before I was married. Back when I had the time and funds for collections.  Then fatherhood smacked me full in the face and those collections took a backseat to other collections, such as boxes of disposable diapers, bills, toys which would eventually turn into junk or get stuffed into the back of the closet to be reduced to a neverending pile of kipple.  Video game systems and piles of games I never had the time to play.  Hundreds of DVDs as well for movies that were watched maybe once and left to gather dust. Easter dresses and expensive Halloween costumes that were too precious to part with even if another kid could have used them.  The piles and collections became a monument to infants who were quickly growing into pre-teens and beyond.

To take a page from my girlfriend’s book and put it into my own, I had to be Little Mr. Responsible.  When my friends were buying motorcycles and taking trips to India, I was the sole breadwinner in a household that was quickly hemorrhaging money and always dependent on help from extended family.  As though anyone owed us for our own poor decisions.

My ex-wife got into paranormal research, so a lot of fun-money we got back in taxes went to buying IR DVR systems, digital voice recorders, and EMF detectors, not to mention tank after tank of gasoline.  My collections went to the basement in boxes (along with some of hers too–because toddlers have no appreciation for expensive toys and knick-knacks).

It’s weird to think about it, but we do tend to gather Things around us.  Little souvenirs, mementos, keepsakes, and just fun stuff that resonate with us as we grow and mature in our lives.  It has been five years since my divorce.  Five years since I basically restarted with nothing.  Most of the things that fill my home are because I had some very generous friends and family who saw that I needed some stuff to call my own.  As nice as some of it is, it’s not really my stuff per se.  In the scramble to put my life back together, I was still Mr. Responsible.  When you might be eating a can of pork and beans for dinner, collections are still in the far back of your priorities.

When I started dating Elise, I got to see her collections.  Her room is like a Sanctum Sanctorum of stuff she has collected over the years.  Granted, she has lost a lot of things herself to circumstance, but still continues to build on her collections, which show her interests and serve as a rich landscape of imagination and play.

Even as adults we should get to play.  We should have things that spark our imaginations.

Seeing her Nerd Shelf, it reminded me of the cool stuff I used to collect too.  My collections these days are still kinda weak, but I have begun building them up again.  The weirdest thing is that some of the things that I once loved are just pale and fall flat in my memory now.  I have no desire to rebuild my Star Wars collection.  It wouldn’t be the same.  A lot of heirlooms that were not returned to me were things that could never be replaced.  A lot of the lesser collections would just remind me of what I had lost if I tried to rebuild them.  Painting figurines?  Who wants to buy all of that paint again, much less finding the time to mess around with tiny sculptures, single hair brushes, and old eyes.

I find myself in the unusual and fortuitous position of having a blank slate.  I might not have an impressive Nerd Shelf myself anymore, but I can surround myself with collections that resonate with who I am now.  I’m finding that a lot of the things I have now belong to someone else’s life, another man’s past–even if they were things I once held dear.  As I move on in my life, some of these collections get pushed back into the corners and boxes.  The sentiment of having things around just to have them was appreciated, but it is time to start anew.

I still don’t know what I want to collect, only that I have the urge to do so again.  Sometimes I don’t even know what I like anymore, but I’m certainly open to finding out again.  This stage of my life could mean just about anything.  But as I’m a discerning man in my 40s, it’s likely going to be more expensive than it used to be.

For now, I collect experiences.  Those are the things that an awful divorce and poverty couldn’t take away, which I have gotten to enjoy for most of my life.  But with any collection, it’s important to know which ones to keep, and which ones to toss.

Moving forward

One of the saddest things that I have seen these days has been the division of Americans along political lines.  Today, a few discussions on Facebook led me to taking note of this.  I have seen my friends-list becoming more and more polarized along political lines.  I won’t get into the details of my own political beliefs, other than to say that they are fairly centrist.  But I will say that I don’t have a lot of hope for my country within the next generation or two.

I’m not a fan of political extremism and some of my friends I have retained because of a force of habit.  These are people I have known for a long time.  But recently, I have seen such a sea change in what binds us ideologically as people that I cannot adhere to the same connections that once held us together intellectually.

I have neighbors that no longer speak to me because of perceived disagreements on the subject of politics.  People whom I used to enjoy spending time with at parties or just socializing.  Some of the reasons for this may be because of them and some might be me.  Now I just find their company exhausting and disingenuous.

What is taking over our country is one of Tribalism, where it is very much Us vs. Them.

What I see in social media is also destructive in these regards.

We hold on to entire groups of people we no longer know or relate to.  Some studies have shown that human beings are really only capable of sustaining communities of 150 or less, which stems from ancient tribal and familial bonds.  Yet our social media experience allows for thousands of “friends.”  A lot of these people are just people you used to know.  Collecting names on a screen like they were Mint In-Box action figures.

Sometimes, I really just don’t want to hang out with a lot of these people.  For the most part, people who are rabid about their political ideologies are ones I want to avoid the most.  Right or Left, the minute that soap box comes out and I hear rhetoric, fuck, I just want to walk away and find out where the misfits are hanging out.  Maybe they are playing hackey sack.  Maybe they are pirating music and introducing each other to things like vapor-wave and post-punk.  Or want to talk about their favorite movies or video games.  Or places they have visited.  Funny stories to tell.

Maybe they have found a portal into another realm that they disappear into where fell creatures lurk in the shadows and wisdom and heroism are the weapons of choice to combat them.

Or at the very least they draw some really bitchin’ pictures of dragons with ballpoint pen.  Ironically enough, I have seen what this tribalism has done to the genres I write within.  How people are blacklisted due to their politics, regardless of their talents or abilities.  How others have been put into positions of power due to cronyism.  Cancel Culture has been around for a long time in SF/Fantasy.

We aren’t going to fix anything by alienating each other.  And we aren’t ever going to get along entirely either.  What we should do is treat each other with kindness.

In the last year, I have let a lot of people go.  People who are no longer good for me, and maybe I wasn’t good for them either.  When you get that sour feeling in the pit of your stomach and you feel like the people they are talking about with such hate and rancor is you, maybe it is time you parted ways.  Love them  Or love the memory of them.  But it is okay to move forward.

Social media connects us with so many people we have outgrown.  In my case, as a writer and someone who is trying to have their work read, there is a bit of hypocrisy in what I say today.  I wouldn’t mind if everyone liked what I said and kept reading. But sometimes I’m going to say something that rubs someone the wrong way.  I am myself.  I am not an ideology or representative of such.

I’m not for everyone.

These days, in spite of trying to expose as many people as I can to my works, I do have my own boundaries.  I don’t want to be liked by everyone.  How exhausting that would be?  I don’t have to be liked by everyone, and I don’t like everyone–on a personal level.

When I travel to other places, I tend to keep my mouth shut and my mind open.  But sometimes hearing what people say to each other in my own country, well, it just makes me want to turn my gaze back towards the blank page and build other worlds to disappear into.  Maybe when I emerge again, the world will have sorted itself out, and the radical Right and Left will have beaten each other into the dust and the rest of us can finally just live in peace.

When I go to other places, people are generally friendly to strangers.  They are polite and accommodating.  They trade stories.  They recognize each other’s differences, but they also approach each other with grace and tolerance.  I’m talking across many cultures.  Separated by oceans, Religions, etc.

What I see on a platform of “Friends” is radically different. We have the potential to make the world a smaller place and all it has done is tear us apart.  Or making us feel lonely.