Living Well

All posts in the Living Well category

Focusing on Something is Difficult

Published April 9, 2013 by pipsqueak

I sample hobbies like halloween candy, picking them up and discarding them as soon as I don’t find them interesting anymore. Trying things out is cool, because you learn about lots of different things. But I’ve always the envied the concentration and dedication of those who give themselves completely to their craft. I think the quintessential example is the ballerina who has been training since she was three. Hours of practice and exertion adding up to something beautiful.

I am not that ballerina. I am the living example of Quantity over Quality. Hnng. Need a very basic Tae Kwon Do move executed? (At this point, I only remember the ones with cool names, like “Tiger Mouth” and “Ox Jaw”) Want me to play a simple guitar song in the key of C? How about a sloppy watercolor painting? Or a scatterbrained poem written? Or a charmingly rough-hewn pencil sketch of an eyeball? Or a knitted sweater? Or the theme song of Sherlock played on accordion?


you think this is for comic effect but i’ve dabbled in like 4 of these instruments (via flickerstage)

So here I am, the product of many fulsome years of doing this and that. Nothing in particular very intensely, though, except maybe knitting and writing. And although in some ways, my sample-pack approach to Doing Stuff has been fun and illuminating, I do feel a bit unrefined. I envy the laser precision of some people’s dedication to their craft. I mean, they are out there, BEING AMAZING AT ONE THING THEY PRACTICED A LOT.

if you haven't stabbed yourself with a mirror you aren't trying hard enough (via fanpop)

what i’m saying is if you haven’t stabbed yourself with a mirror you aren’t trying hard enough (via fanpop)

I used to be completely confused as to how people could stick to something so faithfully. In the past, I’ve found myself squirming with boredom, sickness of the sameness, when I stick with something for too long. I’ve had this fear of going into something and having it be really boring. And that has happened to me a few times. I gave up flute after three years (it was hard to channel my adolescent angst in its dulcet tones). I thought it was all sonatas and sunshine, which didn’t suit me. But maybe if I’d stuck to it, I could have actually found a way to do something cool (to a middle schooler) with it. I mean, that beat-boxing flute guy did.

freaking beatboxing flute

literally so metal (via jonestunes)

I think that you need to make something your own in order for it to be truly impressive. Although technical expertise can be staggeringly impressive, I think that what truly marks an artist is the ability to add something new.  Maybe the mark of a genius at something, then, be it ballet or needlepoint, is the ability to synthesize their expertise with imagination, to add the richness of their experience and make art. We’ve seen writers of every generation reinvent their craft again and again. From Homer to Steve Roggenbuck, there have been endless iterations of what poetry can be and mean.

So here, dear reader, is my mission (and yours, possible): To find a hobby, a thing to do, and stick to it. Become good at it. And then do something with it that no one has ever done before. If Debbie New can knit a boat, then anything is possible.

none of your punk-ass grandma shit here (via valariebudayr)

none of your punk-ass grandma shit here (via valariebudayr)


Letting go of innocence

Published March 28, 2013 by pipsqueak
(via latimes)

quintessence of innocence (via latimes)

A long time ago, in the dark days of middle school, someone called me innocent. She meant that I had never touched alcohol, had sex, or done anything remotely rebellious. Which was… really really true. Still, it struck me as kind of the wrong word to use. Call me geeky, call me socially awkward, call me a huge fucking nerd! These are all true. But innocent? Of what?

I haven’t subscribed to any doctrinal belief in years, but I do have a kind of concept of sin, or “badness”. I don’t really believe that alcohol and sex = INHERENT BADNESS.  Sex is natural and good for you, as long as it is safe and consensual, after all. And alcohol is an enjoyable recreational drink for many people.* I have a much vaguer morality, a kind of rule of thumb that I do my best to uphold. Here it is:

It’s our duty, as human beings, to not hurt each other or ourselves.

It’s kind of minimalist morality, but there you go. I’m a modern gal. And obviously there are a zillion occasions where it’s impossible to uphold, of course there are conditions every day where we cause each other pain with offhand comments, or are forced to do something painful for a greater good. As we go through the world, we hurt each other. We also inspire and heal and love each other, but we also cause each other great amounts of pain. 

Innocence, to me, doesn’t mean that you’ve never had sexy thoughts or drank a Pabst at a college party. What is means to me is that you are free of the knowledge that your existence has caused someone pain. Or maybe you are free of intention to hurt anyone. All I know is that nothing makes me feel more ugly, less innocent, than the knowledge I have hurt someone.

This is why innocence belongs to children. We can’t retain this because the world, for all its beauty, is also a place where you will be hurt, painfully and sometimes permanently. Although seeing ugliness in other people is awful and hurtful, I kind of think that it’s harder to deal with ugliness you don’t want to recognize in yourself. We all start out believing we are the good guy, after all. Very few of us like to believe they are the antagonist in someone else’s story. Let me make an example here:

Best friends, who know all each other’s weaknesses and insecurities, get into an argument. In the moment, one of them tells the other one that she [fat, a slut, or anything other wounding word]. Not only does this hurt the person that was insulted, but unless her friend is utterly remorseless, she now has to live with the fact that she hurt someone she loves.

Do you see what I mean? As I grow up, I’m finding ways to get along with people better, to mend problems with people, but I still don’t know how to live with the guilt of my selfish actions. For those of us who do not have a confession booth to go to, how do we live with ourselves? 

*Although I don’t deny they can be problems that get out control for some

I’m always asleep

Published March 14, 2013 by pipsqueak

Get up. Drink coffee. Think the same thoughts you thought yesterday, push away the bad ones like you did yesterday. Check facebook, feel a tiny zip of excitement at the red notification bubbles. They’re like popularity points! Eat a bunch of cookies, mainly out of boredom. Wonder if this will escalate into a habit leaving you obese. Shudder. Go back to the bed you just slept in, open your laptop, and start clicking through articles on the internet. Find a few bits that amuse you, look at pretty pictures, guiltily watch the viral video of Trouble (ft. Yelling Goat) for the 12th time. Haha. The goat sounds like people!

You’ve got a good buzz going, a pleasant comfortable feeling that you avoid denting by reading anything distressing, like Nietzsche or the news. This is your life. It’s very comfortable, with free videos and music to distract you from any unease. You don’t know exactly what you want. You think you are happy, but are unsure exactly what the word means or how it applies to the moment-to-moment tasks of your life.

You’ve heard people talking about how lazy kids these days are, and you aren’t sure whether you agree. You’re not working sundown to sunset on a radish farm in the blistering winter cold. However, you still have to study for hours a day to stay afloat in school.  And doing okay in school, showing good progress in the core classes. This is so that you can get a job. And duh, you want money. You need to have a good house, internet, cool ranch flavored chips- the good things in life. Day to day life contains the same pleasant consistencies (delicious morning vanilla latté! YAYYYY) and unpleasant regularities (math class. UGHHH. amirite?).

And uncomfortable truth, though, is that when you look to see what you are proud of doing, you realize that most of your pride comes from things you didn’t do. You didn’t drop out of high school at 16, you didn’t get hooked on speed and pawn your mom’s earrings, you didn’t shoot up a school. You have achieved it: normality. Here is your glory: you are not infamous. You have done nothing out of the ordinary that is bad.

Your emotions are rarely extreme. A good mood is placid and mildly entertained, a bad mood is “meh,” or worse, the malaise that crescendos late at night when you ask the questions that you avoid when other people ask you. “What am I doing with my life?” If you look back, every day has the same flavor. Sitting around, absorbing internet, playing video games, hanging out with your friends. The days blur together, but seem to be passing faster. You can’t really remember anything particularly exciting that happened in the next day.

You must fight this. You can die far before your actual death if you live this way. Cram every moment with an experience, get your knuckles bloody and your face wet. Pay attention, for the love of god, and if you realize you are feeling nothing and are okay with it, then change something. It’s easy to slurp the saccharine nectar of entertainment and cheap food and lying comatose in your comfort zone, but after the warm buzz recedes, you will have all of the same meaningless consistency. You have experienced nothing. And with this nothing will come the desperate need for comfort. And you will return to sleep.

Thoughts from a Neurotic College Freshman: I kind of forgot how joy works

Published February 21, 2013 by pipsqueak
white's light

“seek out the hidden places where the fire burns hot and bright” – the mountain goats

Humans aren’t meant to be sad.

Well, yeah we are. We’re built for it. We have brain chemicals and natural mechanisms that cause all varieties of unpleasant emotions – fear, anger, pain, sorrow, despair. But there’s something else to being human. I remember it from when I was younger, before my mind was enveloped with malaise. And I recognize it in art, in the poems of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg and Matthew Dickman and Ani DiFranco.

It’s joy.

And you know what? I think it’s harder to find then you think, this deep joy that swells within you and gives you strength. It’s something we are all told to find in college, but it’s a far more tricky thing to actually find than it is to nod and smile when they say “Follow Your Bliss!”

So we follow other things, like the promise of money, like the comforting embrace of caffeine, like the brief high of those little red notifications on facebook. We’re in an age of instant gratification, but most of the time, everything feels deeply unsatisfying. Infinite distractions distracting from a certain underlying emptiness and uncertainty.


So here is my new manifesto: I will no longer be shy about seeking out the truly good things, about screaming the glory of books and dancing and running until my limbs ache and staying up into the wee wild hours of the night writing down my thoughts. My spectrum of emotion has too long stretched only from sadness to mild contentment. The suffering will take care of itself, flare up when it wants to, I think, but vital, visceral joy is owed some recognition in my life as well.

I’m Gonna Pop Some Tags (or why Thrift Shopping is fun, smart, and a force for good in the world)

Published January 28, 2013 by pipsqueak

Macklemore, the irrepressible newcomer to the airwaves, has done the radio-listening demographic a great service. With his song Thrift Shop, not only has he created a zingy little song, he has brought the fabulous pastime that is Thrift Shopping into the front of the collective consciousness.

 this is fucking awesome thrift shop

Here’s a brief list of reasons why you, my intelligent and attractive reader, should be heading down to your local Goodwill/Salvation Army/St. Vincent DePaul’s stat:

1. Obviously there are always some terrible falling-apart clothes at any secondhand shop, but here’s the thing about cheap clothes that you find at a Mall. Let’s take, for example, Forever 21. It’s great because it’s cheap. But half the clothes I got from them start to fray at the seams and otherwise betray their shoddy make within a few weeks. The influx of mass-produced factory-made clothing has been good news for those who only have $5 and really, really want a neon yellow stripe halter top.


or people who want to emulate their Teen Talk “Math Class Is Tough” Barbie

But it’s bad news for clothes. Good clothes. Durable clothes. Clothes that you have long enough to grow a sentimental attachment too. And due to the nature of secondhand clothing stores, many of the clothes there are probably made from an earlier time, when clothing was made more durably. And it’s still cheaper than Forever 21.

2. Hilarious Weird Clothes That You Will Never Find Anywhere Else

but shit, it was 99 cents!

Here is an abridged list of cool shit I’ve gotten at thrift stores:

  • tricolored sequined high heels
  • red kneelength leather “where in the world is Carmen Sandiego” coat
  • several of the coziest Fair Isle sweaters I’ve ever seen
  • a Greek Goddess style coin belt
  • flannels. Gorgeous cozy heaps of flannels

And I’m sure you will find many bizarre and unique things.

3. Sales

Due to the charitable nature of many thrift shops + the wide variations in quality of their products, many secondhand clothing stores are prone to really good sales, the likes of which you would never find in a modern mall. Like the “Everything (purple/blue/black/yellow) is 50% off!” day. Or “Everything in the entire store is a dollar!” day.

One of my very savvy friends happened upon a St. Vincent dePaul’s during a “Dollar Day” and came away with fifty things. For weeks after the sale, she would come up to me and indicate a pair of moccasins or a sturdy wool coat and say, “it was a dollar,” her eyes wide with the infinite wonder of the universe.


and in that moment, i swear there were infinite brocade vests

4. my fourth and most compelling reason is that thanks to Macklemore you now have the best pump-up song for going Thrift Shopping EVER.

your excellent rhymes and brocade puppy vests are an inspiration to us all

your excellent rhymes and puppy vests are an inspiration to us all