Wednesday, July 18, 2018

muddied waters

I think about my own emotions a lot.  What it is that I'm feeling exactly and why.  I've often found that the closer I look, the less clear it becomes.  Terms like happy or angry, love or fear, never really fit my own experience very well.  I'd easily apply them to others, but that's because it's easy to forget just how complicated other people can be, too.  I can't speak to whether this is about me personally, or me, as a human being.

My mother's often used something my father said to her, as an example of how emotionally abusive he was.  She'd ask if he loved her, and he'd reply that he doesn't understand what love is.  I've been trying to understand my father all my life, too.  I suspect that he was just giving a straight forward answer.  Maybe a little too bluntly because he felt cornered, but some of my emotional skepticism might be hereditary.

On the other hand, I've been of the belief that emotions basically matter more than anything else in life.  Dying wouldn't be so tragic, if it weren't so sad.  Everything that matters comes back to our emotions, in terms of whether or not we think they matter.  For most, the proposition would seem fairly simple- emotions are the natural outcome of events that happen.  Death makes us sad, because it's terrible. 

This is simple, straight-forward, but absurd.  Subjective, arbitrary, opinion treated as self-evidently and objectively factual.  Emotional responses to the same events can vary wildly.  We learn what's terrible and what isn't, we learn what to be emotional about, and we learn it very differently, depending on our lived experiences, and what we've been taught.  Pure reason goes nowhere without emotional weight applied to every variable.

Emotions provide the fertile ground for what we're going to believe matters.  What makes us happy, what makes us angry, sad, anxious.  I'd still argue that this is extremely important, and that we should strive to be a whole lot more mindful about what we feel.  I've certainly found it to be more confusing and misleading than initially thought, and highly impactful on what I actually try to do.  Or in my case, more often why I do so much nothing.

I've never liked the idea of being more callous.  To be less feeling is to lose something that struck me as most important.  I guess I've been rethinking that.  The world sucks.  If I'm going to try living in it, I've got to get better at dealing with that.

Friday, July 13, 2018

alienation familiar

Oxytocin is released in a wide variety of ways which have no direct physiological basis.  Shaking hands, hugs, eye contact - release must occur by subjective interpretation.  This is learned and often very cultural.  There may be some underlying instinct or sensory benefit, but for the most part, we learn what hugs mean.  We learn to respond to them with oxytocin, when we're within normal ranges for a healthy well functioning endocrine system.

Another interesting facet of oxytocin is that it's extremely tribal.  I wonder if it could even be the physiological basis for tribalism.  Under it's influence, we feel warmth, sympathy, and trust for those that we recognize as one of our own.  Alienation from those we perceive to be other, not one of us.

So, back to my first point, oxytocin is released by social rituals and normative familiar behaviors.  When people fail to signal their familiarity, oxytocin isn't released.  Without oxytocin, the default state is distrust.  It can run a gamut, from hate to fear to indifference.  It strongly moves the needle in that direction, while individual propensities for those feelings also vary widely for myriad other reasons.

It's a cooperative process, where such signal failures result in distrust, the disconcerting absence of oxytocin on both sides.  If someone shakes your hand in a way that's alienating, or refuses to shake it at all, the pathology is shared.  The alienated will also be perceived as alienating.

The depressed often talk of the need to keep up a facade, as if most of us understand intuitively how problematic it can be not to go through the proper signaling behaviors.  I've learned to act like a more normal human being in all sorts of ways.  I even smile for you bastards.  I hate smiling.  Staring into your eyes while trying to listen to whatever asinine noises you're making, I do that too.  Still, my behavior might not be quite familiar and normative enough.  It doesn't come naturally to me, for whatever myriad reasons.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


This college class takes an odd turn at the halfway mark.  Aside from the little weekly essays we're supposed to write, we're supposed to turn in a more extensive paper after six weeks, and another one when the semester's over.  The first was a personal essay, attempting to answer the question, who am I.  The second though, is a research paper.

We can research anything we want, and it can even be something we're already well versed in, except that it needs citations and a bibliography.  The teacher gets oddly quiet when asked for specifics or help figuring out what to do the paper on.  As if there's some significance to making us wing it. I'm thinking growth hormone deficiency, or something more precise, like the impact of growth hormone deficiency on protein metabolism.  I'm substantially less comfortable with whatever this vague assignment is supposed to be about.

My personal essay is here, though.  Too long to paste into my blog.

I've been thinking some more on why I'm not a night person anymore.  I don't get drunk and play video games anymore.  I don't do much of anything imaginative or enjoyable anymore.  Not because of any sort of value judgment about it, but because everything has to be about utility for the time being.  I need to do everything I can to get myself out of this hole, and when I think about how gradual this has been, how long ago I stopped watching television shows and movies, gaming less and less, I wonder how long my mind has been secretly planning all this.  First, I had to get my head out of the clouds.

It all helps, but none of it ever feels quite good enough.  Life is not supposed to be this difficult, but adversity itself is not the problem.  It's every little thing I need to do, all day long.  It's still quite a struggle to focus on whatever's right in front of me, but I'm doing it.  Maybe in another year or two, I'll feel like I can handle it.  There are even a few classes I look forward to taking, once I clear these lame pre-requisite hurdles.

For now, I can't risk eating poorly, or drinking beer.  Getting absorbed in a video game, or messing up my circadian rhythms.  Jogging on the days when I'm not kickboxing.  I wake up early every day because that's what's most conducive to being functional.  I've finally resigned myself to the notion that "who I am" has been problematic.  I don't know who I am anymore.  Scattered memories, dubious proclivities, so much nonsense.

Maybe someone with a functional pituitary gland can go to bed late or scarf down coffee and donuts without worrying about it.  Many an obese alcoholic still manages to be way more functional than I am.  I've had to take drastic measures, and I'm still skeptical of how well it's working.  I don't even particularly want to be functional.  Just seems that I need to be, and it's taking everything I've got to figure out how to get there.

It's as if I couldn't fathom that any road worth taking could be this long and arduous.  If I've understood what I've been reading lately, that would be a function of the pre-frontal cortex, which develops last.  Usually late teens, early twenties.  I was still losing baby teeth and wetting the bed, until I was about eleven, so yeah, sounds vaguely plausible to me.  Hormones are involved in triggering numerous developmental phases.  Probably even neurological ones.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

dimensions of self

This class is an odd one.  Not so much for it's novel character, but because it's also mandatory.  Someone not only came up with this distinctive mash-up of a course, but it was agreed upon that we should all have to take it.  It even defies being given a straight forward name.  I thought Dimensions of Self and Society had to be some sort pretentious misnomer, that it was more like an Intro to College class, or something.

Now that I'm more than half-way through it, I'm still not entirely sure where it's going.  We've been reading all these little bits and pieces of literature, poetry, and history.  Throughout which, there's been this thread, vague, but it seems to be one of self-determination.  From the struggles of slaves to attain it, to poets writing about the choices they've made.

That being only half of it, as it's also very writing intensive.  Lots of focus on how we personally relate to the material.  Another dimension of self, self-expression.  I guess?  Vermont is an odd state.  Writing about myself though, yeah, I think I can do that.  I'm just not sure what it even means.

I've been wondering if I'm even a night person at all anymore.  That was a huge part of who I was, for so long.  Now, I barely even remember what it was like.  I simultaneously loved being up late at night, and dreaded being awake during the day.  People are so much more tolerable when they're all sleeping.

I don't feel that I've changed all that much.  I still can't stand people, but when I moved to New Jersey, a few things changed.  I had to be awake during the day, I started treatment with an endocrinologist. I started jogging and eating healthier, because the people I lived with eat that way.  I had to get used to dealing with people more, and maybe I do dread it less than I used to.  I don't honestly know what caused the change, but I transitioned gradually but thoroughly into a day person.

Just the other evening, I was thinking about how I used to enjoy going for simple walks at night.  I liked being out at night.  Just for being outs sake.  At night.  The later, the better.  I was thinking about how that doesn't really appeal to me like it used to.  How am I supposed to get anything done, in the middle of the night?  I fear I may have lost something, here.

I certainly don't identify as a day person.  Or a morning person - and yet it's difficult not to get up before 6am sometimes.  Usually because I've been going to bed so early lately.  I don't want to be awake during the day.  I don't particularly want to be awake at all ever, but it's easier to control than it used to be.  Sleeping whenever the hell I felt like it was certainly problematic.

Another thing I did back then, was abandon everything I owned, keepsakes from childhood and the like.  I threw out old paintings I did as a teenager.  I abandoned the notion that I should identify with any of it.  That there was any point in holding onto any of it.  Everything we are, a matter of circumstance.  Circumstances change.  If I premise my life on transient notions of self, my footing will never be stable.

What then does it mean to identify with anyone else, when I no longer identify with myself?  Not that I'm free of it, but I do get tangled up in these contradictions.  I'd like to be a night person again, someday.  Whatever that means.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

school and more school

I had to move the desk anyhow, so decided to try placing it differently instead of putting it back the same way.  This room is about the same size and shape of a room I had a computer in, over ten years ago.  The desk inadvertently positioned very similarly, with a window to my right, two doorways behind me.  One to a kitchen, the other to a bathroom back then.  A closet and a hallway now. 

Enough alike that I keep feeling like I'm back in that old apartment.  With my eyes affixed to a computer screen, street sounds and sunlight from the outside world behind me and to the right.  Looking in that direction, I miss my cat.  Instead of seeing him sitting there staring at me from his food bowl, it's just a lonely closet door.

Like then, I'm even doing martial arts again - and with no serious injuries to report at the moment, I might add.  After fending off what I'm pretty sure was a sinus infection, I slacked off, barely making it to one class a week, but I've picked it back up.  Still floundering a bit, but feeling like any day now, I should be able to find the groove again.  Where I sorta feel like I know what I'm doing, and I'm kinda good at it.  Not quite there, yet.

Getting lots of praise from my college teacher though.  Second class in a row, he singles me out to gush about about deep and profound a passage I've written was, how impeccable my cadence and alliteration.  I had to look up alliteration.  As the rest of the children looked at me, wondering what the hell the teacher was going on about, it was rather awkward, but I've been getting A's.  I suspect English comp will be similar.  I have a lot to learn about formatting and what college papers are supposed to look like, but I've got the best words.

I'm starting with basics next semester.  English composition I, college algebra, intro to computer science, and a foreign language.  К сожалению, they don't offer Russian, so I'll be back to learning Spanish for two semesters.  At least it's still one of the four I'd like to be able to fluently watch cartoons in. 

It'll be interesting to see if I can juggle that much, while still getting beat up two or three nights a week.  It doesn't sound like all that much to me, but I spend half the week recovering as it is.

Monday, June 18, 2018

boulder dash

Trying to do this on my phone.  Computer's all dismantled because the apartment needs more work, and my computer desk was in the way.  The desk is falling apart, so it couldn't be moved except piece by piece.

This was scheduled for tomorrow morning but I got it mixed up with another appointment I had today.  I dismantled everything a day early.  Not so bad, I thought.  I should spend more time away from the PC anyhow.

Feeling lousy though, not up to doing much.  I'm starting to feel a little more confident in my ability to procrastinate judiciously though.  I know how long it will take me to write a paper and it doesn't need to be today.  Thankfully, as I clearly can't be bothered to type anything up right now..

I'm getting it all done so far.  The other appointment that was today was to set up financial aid.  Again, shocked at how easy that part has been.  Most Americans can neither afford college nor qualify for much aid, but I'm lucky in that I have nothing at all, and am officially disabled. 

So, it's all set.  I'll be going full time in the fall.  Guess we'll find out how disabled I still am.  I have some doubts about my competence, but so far, so good.  It's long past time I gave it a shot.  Especially given that it's so affordable for the time being.  Maybe I should also clarify that this is just a two year community college.  Paying for real college gets much trickier.

I don't feel I have much choice, which is probably what I was so afraid would happen.  Now that the big scary ball is rolling, I need to keep going.  Feel like I spend half the week recovering from the other half as it is.  Some days I think I'm doing remarkably well, but others, it all feels like it's on the verge of crashing down on me.  Would be nice if I could keep improving, but that's looking iffy at times.

Which was all essentially what I'd intended.  Sink or swim.. Alright, fine.  Maybe I can swim.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

fear of scarcity

I've been sick the last few days.  Just a head cold or something, but blowing my nose this much is debilitating in itself, and feeling rather lousy on top of that.  Being sick feels a lot like how I normally feel, only amplified.  It's even more difficult to concentrate, or even think about doing anything.  I hope this is my last day of it, because I have another paper to write. 

That I might have to do it while feeling like this seems particularly unfair, but I guess it's the same old idea, might have to do it anyhow.  Get over this inertia, hammer something out.  BJJ is out of the question though.  This would not put me on good terms with my training partners.

I keep wondering about this feeling, most noticeable when it fluctuates.  What does it mean to feel like I don't have the energy?  I can't?  If my apartment were suddenly besieged by hornets or something, I'd find the energy pretty easily.  Not because of any miraculous burst of adrenaline, but because physiologically, the energy is there.  I'd just have to collapse into a heap and take a nap shortly there afterwards.

On an unconscious level, I'm calculating how much energy I have, and trying to keep the needle from dropping into the red.  Not actually being on empty, this becomes arbitrary.  Subjective.  How do we figure how low is low?  A quarter, a third, below half?  Half of what?  Is this based on some lizard brain instinct to make sure we always have enough in reserve, for those times when we might go a few days without food?  Do mental health conditions throw the whole calculation off?

I'm pretty sure that I have more energy than my lizard brain is telling me that I have, even when I am sick.  My immune system might need that, though.  Think I read somewhere that healthy fats are best for keeping the immune system powered. As long as I eat some peanut butter or something, I should be able to write a paper without all these unpleasant biochemical reactions hassling me like this.