Conscious Fuckery

A new baker has to follow the recipe if they want to make a living.

Follow the steps. Add the ingredients. Look for that golden brown color for when the loaf is done. Another dozen cookies. A delicious cake.

The steps are the routine. Follow the instructions and get the desire result.

Eventually the recipe is memorized and the instructions are no longer needed. At this point one of two things that will happen: the baker will rise early each morning, go through the routine, and come up with the same baked goods they’ve always come up with or they’ll accidentally miss a step and the batch of whatever gets fucked up.

Or, fully conscious of the recipe in their head and how it lays out on the baking sheet and how all of the ingredients react with each other, the baker consciously misses a step or adds a step or tosses in half of an ingredient or doubles something else and comes up with something that is wonderful and unprecedented.

I’ve never related to the idea of the free spirit. I certainly get the whole free spirit thing. I understand that most people need to break free the bounds of their upbringing and travel and have a totally new human experience each and every day.

I need consistency. I need a routine. It’s not romantic but I have a strong feeling that most others feel the same way. Consistency brings economy, planning, stability, sanity. It’s the farthest thing from “romantic” most of us can think of, but it’s the truth. Even at the end of a huge vacation where you may have travelled the world, there is something comforting and familiar about using your own shower.

My days, weeks, they all look very similar. There are hours of the day I need to be certain places – the gym, work, home, some recreation every now and again. A lot of us can cop to the same. The difference between the baker that puts out the same thing every morning and the one who comes up with great new pastries is conscious fuckery – something I’m attempting to apply to my own days.

Conscious fuckery – to be aware in the thing you are regularly doing and applying something a little different to it.

It makes things better, or worse. Either way I’m at least more aware of each step of my day.

We go to work because we need money. But do we need this job. Are we going to the gym because we feel obligated to fulfill a monthly contract? Or is there a larger purpose above running through that WOD?

When I eat – is it because I’m hungry? Is it because that’s when everyone else went to go eat? Or that I’m bored out of my mind and the only thing I can do for a dopamine release is to stick something in my mouth?

Why do I take the same way to work each day? Have I told myself it is the absolute fastest way to get there? What happens if I turn left right here?

The answers, however vague and altruistic they may be, might just be what keeps the dread of routine at bay.

 

 

Cavalry

For a  while, I was on a high horse.

No one let me forget about it. Everyone thought they were the first to mention it. One way or another we were all sort of assholes about it. I was trying some new disciplines with food, booze, and general health things. For a lot of reasons this got in the way of other people feeling happy or comfortable around me. It became a matter of “you let us know when you’re done with this and we’ll hang out again.”

It was a supper shitty approach to this idea of “friendship.” So, there’s some folks I just haven’t talked to in a while. And maybe that’s ok.

Sometimes you have to get off your high horse for a moment, even if it is only to remember why you started riding it in the first place.

It was really easy to become one of “those” people. No drinking, cleaner eating, trading happy hours for sessions at the gym. I was just trying to trade out the guy I was in my 20s for something I could sustain in my 30s. The intention in all of this was to better manage my feelings of depression and anxiety without pills.

For about a week I started drinking beer again. Regularly. I ate out a lot. There was a big party for my 31st at my house and I realized that I really enjoy bringing people together and seeing folks feel comfortable in an environment that felt familiar to them.

But I was also managing about 4 shitty hours of sleep a night. I had heartburn again and I was feeling restless with just about everything. It came to a head when my feeling of boredom about my work was getting dangerous. I realized nothing satisfied me because I had completely lost sight of my intention. All of it was going to take me to a very shitty place before too long.

So, it’s back on the horse again. However high it may be. Community and friends are great to have, but how good of a friend can I be to others if I’m not feeling well?

Mostly, and maybe this is just an aside to everything, I miss my mornings. Especially in the summers. The light at dawn, the night-cooled air, the absolute silence of the neighborhood around me as everyone is still asleep. It’s a good time to be outside, to embrace the serenity, to put down some words. At this hour, the world is still sacred. Before long there is the heat and chaos of the day and I have to give myself over to it.

For now, there is the morning. And horses.

Let’s make a cavalcade.

Memory full

What do you remember? More importantly, why is it remembered? Why is it at any particular moment of the day we rarely think “this will become a memory”? Yet we are constantly creating media and content with pictures and notes that are likely never going to be reviewed.

My Flickr account, for example. Full of images that I had taken at one point in time that I chose to delete because I kept getting locked out of my Yahoo account. I have thousands and thousands of images stored in clouds and hard drives, locked behind lost logins and obsolete products – why?

The camera went from being a tool for remembering to being a tool for sharing.

There is a game I sometimes play where I’ll go back and like the very first photo someone has shared on Instagram. When it is played back at me I’m reminded that my first photo was a crap bottle of whiskey I had come across at the liquor store.

This is all stuff I’m thinking about in the hours that follow my experience at Sweet & Lucky. A performance by the Denver Center of the Performing Arts – a different take on a love story told a thousand times over. At the core of everything, the question of memory. What we remember, why we remember it, and are we remembering it correctly?

Growing up we tagged images with a pen. When they came back from developing (from negatives, from a booth that existed expressly for the purpose of printing photos from negatives) my mom would insist that we sit with them and write down when and where the photo was taken, who is in it, whatever could be remembered. All of this written on the back of these delicate photos vulnerable to light and oils and water.

What she failed to mention is that this tagging needed to be done gently and probably with something other than a ball-point pen. There are all these photos from when I’m like 7 or 8 that have been scored through with my heavy, immature handwriting.

I journal a lot. I’ve usually got a notebook stashed away or somewhere nearby. Its a way of documenting, reflecting. All the odds and ends of notes goes in them. Eventually, after a few months or a few years, all of these notebooks are shredded. I tell myself at some point their contents are somewhere within a digital archive I’ll hopefully never lose the password to.

Journals, photos, archives – they all serve as a strange medium between my memories and a way for someone else to reconstruct my memories. After all, what is the job of an archivist but to collect data in the hopes that they would one day be able to tell a different story?

You know those detective shows where they have the wall of photos and documents and yarn that shows how everything ties together? That is all probably done through Dropbox now.

We are all archivists. What stories are being told? With all of the smartphones and apps and ways of telling and taking stories, what are we being told? Sold? How is our years-old feed of Instagram worthy photos telling a better story about us than a faded, found-photo of a Polaroid of people never met, with no notes, existing within a box connected to nothing?

We’re all at the modern quandary between everything “insta” and the idea of “developing” from a negative. Nothing exists as a draft anymore, the idea of memory must be perfect and conditioned and curated.

Even a box of photos needs to be put in order. Every memory is colored by emotion. Every dataset can be pivoted in any direction to tell whatever story we want.

What will I remember about today a year from now? Am I properly archived?

31

On the dawn of my 20th I woke up with the sun at the base of Uracca Mesa. The world glowed yellow with the light through the walls of my Eureka! tent. I’ll never forget the absolute silence that settled in over everything. Not even birds were singing. I’d have everything I owned at that point packed into a backpack and I’d be on the trail before the sun was high enough to burn. A few years later that bag and tent would be inadvertently sold in a garage sale.

A decade later I’m waking up in a tent again. This time somewhere in the mountains of South Park County. Carly is asleep on our air mattress next to me, a few friends are in adjacent tents. Over the next day and a half more people would show up, set up tents and stoves and lanterns. Beer and music would show up. The line would be blurred between modern niceties an flat out wild. Camping wasn’t foreign to most of my friends, but I wanted to put everyone we usually hung out at breweries with in a situation that wasn’t so familiar. It ended fine. I caught a fish the next morning.

At 21 I woke up on a couch in my friend’s house. The kind of birthday drinking that goes with 21 had happened the night before.  A few hours later a guy I knew then – Kyle – and I would  set out to the casinos at Blackhawk to lose a fair amount of money on a Thursday afternoon.  On the way back we drank beers in the car and lamented on the fact that we had collectively lost $300 – what could have been a month’s rent on a really nice place (for college students, in Greeley).

A decade later it looks like the morning of my 31st year I will rise in my own bed. Between each landmark, a total revolution of the sun. Between one point and the next, numerous times waking up, falling asleep. Jobs won and lost, good days, bad days, holidays, and little bits that we use to mark the time. For a while I try to study it, write it down, quantify it. Some of it works – mostly I just use it to feel the sensation of writing.

A decade later – I still remember that couch in Greeley. But everything else about that person barely exists.

I’ve seen more dawns this year than I may have seen in my entire life. Some days I wake up wondering if I had ever actually fallen asleep. After all – how can one wake up if they don’t actually fall asleep? With each day closer to the next completed revolution a certain anxiety starts to set in. The kind of restlessness that comes with waiting for the next thing to launch. Like sitting on the tarmac for an hour, seeing the ground right there, the blue sky over head. Maybe you’re fine to take off, but the destination is experiencing heavy winds.

Everything is ready except for the place you’re going.

Tomorrow, it’s 31.