Exposure

Cheap strippers might bare it all for a few bucks,
but we’re artists here–
we’ll do it for the mere exposure.

When empty hands talk
up their “great exposure”
they knock our covers off
and bring us to their feet,
because we know they know we think
to be more seen must be a good thing.

So turn up the exposure:
show your soul and your skin and any dark place in between–
you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t desperate be seen.

Shed another layer, shed another light, shed another tear or more,
until you’re washed out in bright lights
from overexposure.

Advertisements

Ticklish Spots

“Laughter is a defense mechanism,” she warned me. 

I smiled, “Yeah, it’s my favorite one!”


Ticklish spots are located in the most vulnerable parts of your body. They’re highly sensitive locations, dense with receptors for touch and pain. If you’re a particularly ticklish individual, they’re often places of tension, where thick layers of fascia wrapped around the muscles have solidified, forming adhesions. They’re the places where you could feel excruciating pain if anyone were to dig in too deep.

But few will ever get that far. A light touch on the spot will send you into a bout of laughter, a playful grin on your face as you retract away and shake the hands off of you. You complicate the job for doctors and lovers and TSA agents, but you complicate it with a smile.

And through the discomfort, all you will do is laugh and shake them off–so long as no one comes in too close and presses too hard.

Sometimes you wonder what might happen if you were to let someone keep digging through the tight spots. You would laugh more and more until you couldn’t anymore. Eventually, as they’d comb through the knotted layers of flesh, it might break up some of that scar tissue, release some of that nagging tension, un-train your convulsive reflex.

But as the blood vessels tangled up in those knots would rupture, the blood flowing to the surface, dark bruises would reveal to the world just where you can be hurt. And the unmasked pain on your face would reveal just how much.

So you remind yourself that, tight and twisted as it may be, you built up that impenetrable wall of fascia for a reason. And maybe not all knots are meant to be unraveled.

Besides, laughing is cute and releases endorphins.

Dealing With Envy: a Flowchart

Sometimes you come across a person who seems to have exactly what you’re missing (e.g. shiny hair, shiny GPA, shiny job offer, shiny boyfriend, etc.)–that (non-gender-specific) bitch!

If you’re like most people, your default reaction is to A) Hate that person, B) Hate yourself, or C) Pretend to do A while actually doing B. But there are probably more productive (or less destructive) ways to deal. Here’s a flowchart of suggestions (click to see full-sized):

flow

 

 

You Know That Feeling?

You know that feeling when the season changes? When you’re exhausted and unhappy about being awake at 8 AM until you step outside and taste the bright, breezy, and thoroughly not freezing air. And you just start feeling things. Like hope and relief and excitement bubbling under your skin cells. You also feel your fingers, because they’re not frozen numb. So with your circulation unimpeded, you stop walking so fast and just stand there to think. And you think it’s funny how you feel so different now, even though nothing is really different. Except the weather. 

And then the memories come. Every spring in your lifetime comes flooding back. Well some of them flood–the rest drip, or trickle or ooze–but it’s hard to make the distinction when you’re trying to stay afloat in the cumulative puddle. There’s some scattered images and sound bites, but mostly sensations tickling your body and head. The close touch of people you may never see again (and those you no longer want to). The warmth of places that used to be home. The pulse of old dreams. And you start to smile and cry and laugh all at the same time so that your face looks really weird and people around you wonder what’s wrong with you (and you think that’s actually a really good question). And you think it’s funny how you feel all the same things now, even though nothing is the same. Except the weather.

You know that feeling? Maybe not.

I feel like happiness is severely underrated . . .

. . . in the artistic/intellectual sense, I mean. Just a thought:

There’s this assumption that positive emotions are somehow less deep, meaningful, complex, intellectually “serious” subject matter than positive ones. Something described as a “happy” song or book is assumed to be fluffy, cheap, and fun, but not some great masterpiece or even a personally moving experience in the way a “sad” song or book could be.

But why? Why can’t our highs be just as strong and subtle and multifaceted as our lows? Are there not as many ways to feel good as there are to feel bad?

There’s evidence that people generally experience negatives more strongly than positives, with evolutionary explanations. But I doubt that this isn’t socially/culturally influenced as well. We partially learn how to feel through the ways we communally discuss, observe, and express feelings with those around us. So maybe we need a little more collective practice with the positive ones.

They tell people to suffer for their art, with the expectation that great pain brings great expression and honest emotional depth to their work. And of course it can. But if we’re going after real and powerful emotions, why don’t we also tell people to flourish for their art? To go out and have the most profoundly thrilling, peaceful, sexy, fulfilling, loving, proud, hopeful, relieving experiences for their art? Could that change our capacity to feel on those higher registers?

I definitely don’t want to prioritize one type of emotion over another or suggest that people shouldn’t share negative emotions and experiences (and hey, average and ambivalent emotions are also cool). And my Lana Del Rey playlist gets plenty of use too. But if sadcore is a thing, maybe we need some equally indulgent happycore.

In Defense of Stupid Pop Songs

Being home for me means driving. And driving means listening to the radio. And I listen to Top 40 stations. No shame.

Maybe I should be cool enough to listen to something more hipster, or intellectual-ish enough to turn on NPR (and I do listen to those things sometimes), but particularly when I’m driving, I find myself returning to my cheesy pop music. Even when it sucks.

Sure there are always some songs that are good, but that’s not really the point. The main content is formulaic rhythms, trite lyrics, forced rhymes, problematic messages, and melodies that sound just enough like something you’ve heard before that they will stick in your head immediately. Or if it doesn’t happen immediately, it will eventually, since you will be listening to the same five songs on repeat for the next month. It’s ridiculously annoying. And yet I keep listening.

Why?

First of all, there is a difference between thinking something is good and liking it, and one can occur without the other. Despite being someone who spends a lot of time figuring out how to make good art, being weary of anything that could be considered corny, cliche, or–God forbid–commercial, I doubt that all of art’s value is tied up in it being good. Is “I Love It” an objectively well-crafted song? Probably not. Did it help me get through angry-crying sessions during the last stretch of my senior year when I was in constant tension with my parents, felt generally alone, and wasn’t sure I had much left to care about. Hell yes.

There is also something to be said about what the format of pop radio does to your mind. A small number of catchy songs repeated intensively over a relatively short time period: it creates a sort of auditory index of memories, anchoring your sense of past time and it’s accompanying feelings to periodic sets of songs permanently imprinted into your brain. Songs that are completely and unapologetically not timeless, but instead committed to a very specific and fleeting present (because last year’s songs are so last year).

That’s why I can’t listen to “California Girls” without experiencing the combination of excitement and loneliness, openness and emptiness, of summer 2010, my first few months in the Bay. Or why “So Yesterday” will always remind me of fall 2003, sitting by my school’s butterfly garden with other girls from my third grade class, believing we were the epitome of faux-teenage coolness because we could (sort of) sing all the words. Or why “Larger Than Life” takes me back to my neighborhood pool in summer 1999, when I would passionately debate the lyrics with my sister during breaks (even though we both were actually wrong).

So I’ll keep listening to stupid pop radio, letting it create a temporal framework where I can dump my emotional baggage for later use. Almost like a time capsule.

And no, I’m not going to get too smart or cool for that.

Things I Learned in 2013

  1. College admissions are not controlled by some magical, divine force. No matter what they tell you about ending up where you’re “meant to be,” it’s really just people and numbers on the other side of the process.
  2. That said, most people don’t need a flawlessly-matched college to have a positive experience.
  3. Moving, distance, semi-independent living, urban navigation, and time management are not nearly as hard as people make them out to be.
  4. It’s one thing to hear older artists talk about how they don’t care about success or external validation and like the idea, but it’s another to genuinely feel this way about myself. I need some distance from the constant panic and uncertainty of young adulthood before I can get to that place, and that’s okay.
  5. There is more than one way to be social.
  6. You know how people slightly older than you seem to have it all figured out. They don’t.
  7. Everyone’s life looks way more exciting/perfect on Facebook.
  8. It’s totally okay to feel lots of different things simultaneously. Acknowledging this make every one-word answer to “How are you?” feel painfully dishonest.
  9. Everyone is shamefully ignorant about something. Google helps.
  10. Not all snow is adequate for snowman building.
  11. I don’t actually know what my parents are thinking.
  12. People have no idea what I’m thinking either. Explaining is important.
  13. Java and JavaScript are actually not the same thing.

Image

Have a great new year, people. Or an average one. No pressure.