Some psychology, some sadness, some funnies.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Deep Bass of Conscience

This weekend I went to a Halloween rave, and lawwwd the kids there were young. While I still love the festival and rave scene and don't plan to retire from it any time soon, I've entered into an era of cognitive dissonance that I'll just have to live with until the time comes. Why do they allow 18-20 year olds to buy tickets for something that is widely known to house more dangerous drugs than any other type of recreational event? My comrades and I, ages 29, 31 and 34, made particular note of how the venue charged $5 for water bottlespatrons weren't allowed to refill the bottles in the bathroom, and no free water cups were given. The 31 year old said, "They'll learn when one of these kids collapses on the dance floor from dehydration and they have a lawsuit on their hands".

Raves are a parallel example of the type of dissonance that occurs for me with regard to rap and hip hop. I still love it, I was overjoyed to hear a little mixed in with the dubstep this past Saturday, but these lyrics...Jesus Christ. I am so tired of the way some rappers continue to speak about women. It's disgusting, and I hope that parents are sending stronger messages to lessen the force of what's being played on the radio.

Chances are she was acting up and I fucked her once, never fuck her again.
She can have a grammy, I still treat her ass like a nominee,
She’s leaving on with that pussy like so one time is fine with me.

-Drake, No Lie-

Y'all been together ten years, you deserve a menage 
Specially if you put that BMW in the garage
Specially if you paid a couple payments on her mame crib
Went to her neice's graduation, man, I hate those kids
-Kanye West, Birthday Song-

If she don't wanna fuck I get on my skateboard and I skate past her.
-Lil Wayne, Burn-
She say why you asking questions I say bitch you trynna be funny
Now take your fucking clothes off and let me see your donky kong...
I swear I saw my ho, I swear she waas with my ho
You know I fuck them both, sore pussy and sore throat
-Lil Wayne, No Worries-

Lil Wayne, in particular, focuses on fornication SO much in his songs. It's starting to get obnoxious and is detracting from his albums' entertainment value. Something that I believe solidly validates my disdain is the fact that a majority of nasty mouthed hip hop artists, Lil Wayne and Drake included, have young children (daughters for the aforementioned).

So that's all I'm saying hip hop. I'll still listen to you in my car for 85% of my driving time, but you're disappointing me. Then again, I rarely ever buy music and when I do it's to try out some indie artist I can't hear on the radio, so my opinion doesn't matter. As long as THIRD graders continue to gain such access to rap albums that they know every word to profanity laden Tha Carter IV, you'll be sitting pretty. No lie.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I experience ____. No no, that was a statement not a request.

He was a fine gentleman, a solid Irishman (accent and all) with an open spirit and a certain depth. I felt a kinship there. But despite our better-than-average first date conversation, I came away from the evening feeling defensive and anxious, and I knew that couldn't be good.

He is a teacher at a community college, and thus harbors that teach-y spirit that tends to drive me batty. This is what I would like: I would like to express a piece of me - specifically some light internal struggle -  and just have the person express understanding. No advice, no commentary indicative of the listener judging the comment's validity or need for change, just acceptance and reciprocal conversation.

Come to think of it, he was doing it from the very beginning and I was just trying to stay positive and enjoy myself at the time. This is an emotional bias that I know is nowhere near universally true, but I like to indulge in the perception that these men who become attracted to a girl whom they also feel the desire to teach or save are compensating for something. If, right off the bat, I feel the desire to guide a man, help him reach his potential, then that is not my man. That is a lovely person who is not my equal and who is in the Friend Zone. I'm not looking to mold someone into something else, and doing so alters my feelings about our power balance.

So more of this grrrrr that was mentioned in the previous post.

I am who I am. I don't need you to help me change when I've just met you an hour ago. If I tell you I feel a certain way and we barely know each other, any arguments against what I've expressed as my internal experience, no matter how well-meaning, will not be met warmly. Do you relate to and fully accept who I am  right now or don't you? I'm looking for the former, thank you.

This Body Is a Guest House, Invite Them In

Mmmm kimchi from the jar. It punches you in the face then lingers on the tongue, a complicated and fishy coleslaw with a vinegar undercarriage.

This blog was intended to be written from an ornery, forceful place, but endorphins have rushed in to sooth my capsaicin burn, thus "producing a feeling of well-being". And it hurts so good. Ohhhh yeah.

I can still, however, report on the pleasure associated with what is typically seen as an emotionally negative neurochemical event: a reduction in serotonin. This brain chemical helps us steer clear of depressive moods, compulsive behaviors and poor sleep patterns. It also keeps anger and aggression in check.

Last Friday the brain chemical gods sent a Baltimore riff raff to break into my car and steal my book bag, which contained the pills I take to increase my serotonin levels (I have struggled with mild to moderate depression for much of my life). It took a total of five days to obtain the refill, but by the time I picked it up I was starting to feel...alive?

Having also struggled with assertiveness over the years, and having tried this prescription for about 7 months now, I can say that the reduction in angry/aggressive feelings did make me less bothered by frustrating situations, but it also led to an added lack of drive toward redressing them.

So the pleasure I spoke of comes from a keen awareness of this sensation: I'm back, and I'm angry. I'm tired of not correcting people when they've incorrectly assessed my thoughts or emotions. I'm tired of not speaking up. Of not pushing for the information I need.

All this fiery enthusiasm could be a flash in this week's pan, and my heightened joie de vivre will likely be accompanied by deeper shades of upset when things go wrong (they don't call them mood stabilizers for nothin), but right now I invite it. I have shit to do, things to be inspired by...annoyed by, enchanted by, infuriated by. The emotions I experience have always been broad in scope, and it wasn't until this week that I realized how much I miss myself. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Other Avenues

It's been a while, bloggy blog. I still think of you.

Tonight I'm pondering boundaries. As a caretaker of youth, I tend to let things (play fighting, energetic games) go further than a majority of other guardians might, but I'm fiercely observant for the signs that precede "too far". Partly, this approach serves my dislike of expending energy as a constant discipliner, but I also think there's value in letting young people feel out the edge. When I do step in, as I did tonight when a small child tried entering a play fight circle, I make the event clear to everyone and then back out again. My hope is to contribute to their becoming free-spirited, yet respectful and observant players.

These are the kinds of simple situations that I feel competent around because they involve rules that someone my age learned many years ago. When I am personally involved, however, and the rules are less clear, I have a tendency to lack boundaries...especially with kids.

Last night the 16-year-old I live with came into my room and chatted with me about zombies for a while. I listened politely and sleepily, recognizing that a young man his age might be getting more out of our conversation than a stimulating discussion of fiction. That is, my uh-oh bells were going off. Here's the thing though - I need connection right now. And even if I weren't in particular need of that, I'm still in love with the interactions I have with young people because they feel so unburdened and safe.

Tonight when his mom came home, she very tactfully, and with an edge of humor, pointed out the inappropriateness of a 28-year-old and a 16-year-old hanging out alone together in the 28-year-old's room. I felt immediately nervous and embarrassed. So that IS a bad thing.

I do well with stated rules, so it's good to have received that message, but I'm also mildly ashamed of not having been solidly, consciously aware of that idea in the moment. Emotional biases...tricky things. That's why it's good to seek external reality checks when you know your brain chemicals have hijacked you to some degree.

I am eager to make mistakes with young people and eager to learn. Tonight's play fight in the park was absolutely glorious. There is nothing like working with children.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


This past March I visited the West Coast for the first time, San Francisco specifically, and had a wonderful time visiting friends, seeing the area and attending the 60th Annual American Counseling Association Conference. As a volunteer at the conference, I paid half price. As an educational ambassador of sorts from the University of Baltimore, I applied for a travel grant that paid for my airfare and shuttle costs. I stayed with a host, which was free, and paid an extra $20 to bring a small cooler of meals for the week in my checked luggage (thank you, science, for your extended-freeze gel packs).

This kind of frugality has defined much of what I've done over the past several years, and I've had the honor of experiencing travel, cultural exchange and applied learning with little to no help from my family and very little income from part-time jobs.

Although these opportunities are out there, I often wonder how much my gender, my ethnicity and the fact that I'm well-spoken play a part in my ability to take advantage of them. I've come to the conclusion that being a little more well-dressed, using slightly better speech and demonstrating a visible passion is all that would be required for the things I've done, and I want young people of all types to know that. Of course, not all young people would be interested in the kinds of things I went for (farming, mission work, a retreat house, summer camps) but any new experiences involving diverse people, cultures and job requirements is invaluable to one's growth. These things are out there. You can get out of your town, you can explore values beyond what you've come to know thus far, you can learn to communicate with a variety of different people and, most importantly, you can mature emotionally. The underlying changes these experiences create will be palpable to prospective mentors and employers, and you will be more proud of yourself because of what you were able to achieve.

I believe that a lessened level of the above qualities, particularly self-esteem, is part of what keeps many people back in this world, the limiting force of perceptions exerting its influence from within and without. But this doesn't mean you have to go half-way across the world in order to grow. It means simply being open to new things and places. It means developing a confidence that says "I can survive no matter where I go, and I am me no matter who I interact with".

Although an idealist, I'm still a logical, realistic person at my core; I tend not to get behind things that don't make proper sense. So when I get into the Baltimore City Schools as a mental health professional (I hope!) I feel confident spreading the message that the cultural glass ceiling, in certain ways, is a lie. So is the idea that appearing rich now is more worthwhile for one's self-esteem than saving one's money and living well later (Gucci ain't Gucci, is what I'm saying). The problem is, much of today's youth recognize their opportunities intellectually and buy into the "achieve" messages until those sneaky meta-messages from friends, society or perhaps even parents creep into their emotional make-up and dictate their beliefs.

But the thing is...yes you can. Yes you can, yes you can.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Love It Like You Mean It

What was it that never let you down? What filled you with connectedness and love when things elsewhere fell short? I'm thinking of people who read two to five novels each month or the fanboys who pledge everlasting love to a story line and its creators. Then there are the pet lovers of course; animals are living, breathing targets of affection and thus closer to justifiable thing-romance...but also subject to wider instances of creepy excess for that reason. And how about the tree huggers? They've got scientific backing for sustainability, widely accepted beauty and semi-aliveness on their side. I'm one of those, and I fully recognize how my emotional needs have influenced my political leanings in that regard. Nature was peace. Nature was me with my dog...and cognitive processing and no one shitting on my ideas or my character. No one ever ruined nature for me, and I thank God for that.

Often I wonder how people can pursue a love that affects other humans while being self-aware about its origins. For example, if you know that you came to love politics because talking about them was the only way you felt like you could connect with your father, then why doesn't that kind of arrest you, stop you in your tracks? Sure there must be a genuine sense of justice, or what have you, sprinkled in there but those are the kinds of emotional motives that truly drive people. As I write this I'm beginning to think it may not make sense to some...I'm not sure why knowing about a passion's origin somehow negates it for me. I guess because it makes everything we do feel selfish. It all feels like one big effort to repair ourselves in a world that keeps breaking itself and repairing itself repeatedly, while the humans inhabiting it are able to feel good about their existence because there are things to fix.

Things have gotten better though, haven't they? Women's rights, human rights, slavery, technology, child things do progress over time. And in my field, psychology, where the hell would we be without all those milestone psychologists who were driven by shit that happened to them when they were younger?

But to address my lingering doubt, what reason would be sufficient for me to feel good about going forward with a task or career? Pure, unadulterated altruism? I'm not sure there is such a thing. I have a sense that most other people don't hold themselves back because of this worry, and I wonder what wisdom they have? Ultimately, I suspect my over-focusing on this stems from fear of failure...or, similarly, impotence in the face of the community woes I'd like to heal. The same goes for this increasing "What's the point?" attitude I've been latching onto more and more as of late.

All these thoughts are the kinds that keep people from doing great things...loving wonderful people. To borrow a term from Quakerism, I expect to reach clearness on this issue some day. Particularly because it's equally...OK, more selfish to sit inside all day and not use one's gifts in an effort to help others.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What ho, Sir Ventalot!

Things that piss me off:

-Being completely misinterpreted, spoken to harshly because of it, and then not having the calmness of mind to redress the misunderstanding in the moment.

-Couples, married or otherwise, who have bought big, beautiful houses together or spend holidays in warm cozy cabins.

-People who want to change your mind and don't realize that showing respect for where you are is the first step in that process.

-Yoga studios that cancel only their night time classes "for the holiday" when the holiday was yesterday...and don't send out an email to their patrons about special hours. I'm talking to you Bikram Yoga Baltimore.

-Myself, when I'm flighty and forget stupid things.