Again and Again

A not so old photo made to look old, like me.

Where have I been? Maybe you’re not really asking. I don’t know how much interest there truly is in this blog, but maybe someone out there misses me and my posts.

Short answer: distracted.

Long answer: Working on my other blog, posting everything I have ever painted/photographed/photo manipulated. And getting way bogged down in the complexities of life.

How am I doing with my New Year’s resolutions? Well… I dunno.

I don’t know if I have recaptured any of my youthful vigor yet. I’m still listening to local music and I even went to a show recently. I left with ringing ears and a headache but dagnabbit I was there!

Hensley

The first month and a half of 2020 was hell. About mid February everything started to look up. Well, most of it anyway. I honestly had no time to think about trying to go back to all of my good character traits from the past. Instead I would like to think I gained new ones.

I have learned to be content, I faced the struggle of January with a stiff neck and a clenched jaw. I worked myself to exhaustion just trying to keep things afloat. Most of that work was met with success, some of it not so much. But I didn’t let the failures knock me down. I just kept swimming.

When things started to get better, I breathed. I slowed down and took stock of the situation and started planning for the future. Bad times could come again, as they have many times in recent years. Perhaps I can be a bit more prepared so I don’t have to work so hard to stay afloat.

All of this was financial stuff mind you. My house is falling apart, my relationship with my wife is rocky, and my mental health is… Well… It’s day by day.

And that’s just how I’m going to face those challenges: day by day.

Trigger Warning

I used to have an issue with the term “triggered”. But more and more I think I understand it.

It’s not usually anger though. It’s usually anxiety. Or depression. Or just a general sadness. Sometimes there are things that just make me physically twitch. 

When I stopped being triggered by the term itself I actually started being able to identify the triggers and manage them. I don’t have to be triggered. I don’t have to react to certain stimuli at all. I can choose to ignore. I can choose to capture my negative thoughts and feelings and correct them. I am not a slave to feelings and negativity. 

Beyond all that, I can create healthy boundaries (another term that used to trigger me) to prevent the triggers from occurring in the first place.

How do you, dear readers, manage the negatives in your life? How do you handle the triggers? I’m still learning and any wisdom is always welcome! 

This was previously published as “Steamed” here: https://www.publish0x.com/driptorch-studio/steamed-xodqgl

Cracked

My life’s been a bit abysmal as of late. Days are hard, circumstances suck. I feel like I am breaking down and losing every fight. I know people want optimistic posts and travel posts and frivolous nonsense. But maybe there is room out here for real posts about trials and struggles. People love a facade, but at the end of the day, many of us are cracked vessels, if not outright shattered.

So please read and know you aren’t alone in your struggle. We all have our challenges and rough seasons. Despite what the internet world would have you believe, there is a lot of darkness out there amongst the bull markets and the glitzy vacations.

We’re all in it together, and we’re all going to make it through. I hope.

New Year, Old Me?

::Insert cliche about how fast the time went::

Despite my recent absence from this page, I’d like to keep the tradition of birthday/New Year’s resolution making. After all, this year was “Stick to the plan” year, so I should stick to my plan of making plans. Or something like that.

Did I stick to my plans?

Nope. Not even close.

Three months into the year the plans got chucked out the window. The only plan after that was to survive.

In some ways I believe I am better off than I was at the start of the year. With such turbulence often comes a new breadth of wisdom. I have learned and grown and adapted myself to chaos in a way that I always struggled to do before.

In many other ways my life is not so good. It’s obvious that my resolutions should be aimed at fixing those specific problems, right ? Unfortunately, most of life is a complicated web of circumstances, so tweaking one or two things isn’t going to change much. If last year was “Stick to the plan” this year can be summed up as:

“Relearn to be me.”

I kinda want to get back to the person I was at 15. Not the immaturity and the youthful ignorance, mind you. I want to rediscover the good qualities of my youth and combine them with the wisdom of my current age.

I was confident back then. I was warm. I had real friends. I genuinely cared about people and I genuinely loved my own talents and gifts. I had a sense of humor and the ability to be genuinely happy and excited about life.

Grow a beard!

Twenty years on I feel like I have lost all of that. My confidence was largely dependent on exercising my talents. But now my talents sit in the corner covered in dust. I am a faded version of my old self.

Stress and exhaustion have left me a bit bitter and grumpy. As a result I seem cold and aloof. I have acquaintances, but no one gets close enough to be a friend. I still care about people, but I’m often overly consumed with my own self loathing to love others properly.

It’s going to be an uphill trek. Circumstances were different then, with age comes responsibility and obligations. And so many struggles. I react quite caustically to hard times. When the going gets tough, I drown. There is hardly ever a time to catch my breath.

I have already started working towards these resolutions. I applied to a new job. Just filling out the resume and creating a cover letter was a confidence booster. I used to hate doing them because I despised tooting my own horn, but this time I actually looked at what I wrote. I haven’t completely relinquished my talents.

Those are real accomplishments and real experiences that I have had. I have used my talents in a variety of ways, and each of them is something to be proud of. And if they help me get this job, that is all the more reason to be positive about them.

I plan to force myself off of social media and get into the real world. Social media is a cold, terrible place to interact with others. Real human interaction is a breeding ground for warmth and real relationship. This is probably the most difficult part of relearning to be myself. The entire culture has shifted in the past 20 years to be dominated by fake screen relationships. It’s almost an act of rebellion to seek real people out and make friends of them. But I need friends. Real ones. That I can drink a beer with. So rebellion it is!

“Lesser” things include working out to improve my health and self-esteem, working on my appearance overall (it’s hard to like yourself if you’re a slob), and liking what I like un-self-consciously.

I used to have my own tastes, even weird ones, and it didn’t matter what others thought. Over time I started to care what others think about my likes and dislikes. This is a tremendously crippling worry. Nearly everyone struggles with peer pressure to some extent. But I feel like I lost my entire self to it.

Too true. Source

This year I intend to embrace my own tastes, even the “weird” ones. This includes embracing my own talents, even if others aren’t as impressed as I’d like them to be.

I also intend to be warmer to people. I’m going to start smiling more and try a little friendliness. This may not be as much of a return to my past as it is just trying to be a better person. I don’t have to be the creepy silent dude or a mumbler. Friendliness is often reciprocated, and if it’s not oh well. At least my smile brightened up my own day.

What are some of your resolutions this year?

Taking Time

“Take time for yourself.” They say.

I’ve never thought that way. Sure, I will sit around and waste time. I will neglect my responsibilities and fixate on some unimportant project. I may even stare at a screen for several hours chasing Wikipedia trails or harvesting endless memes.

But is that time for myself?

That’s just settling. Or being irresponsible. Irresponsible if I’m not doing what I should. Settling if I’m not doing what truly makes me happy.

I don’t enjoy spinning my wheels. There has to be an end product to most of my activities. It could be as simple as a clean room. Yes, I do take joy in cleaning, much of the time. Call me crazy.

But some “activities” have no lasting effect. Some things have to be enjoyed for their own sake. Some things can be undertaken even if the end result isn’t exactly what you hoped for. You still gained experience with whatever it is.

Grumpy “Parrot”, Oil pastels on Paper, 2019

Though I have been fairly absent from this site I assure you that I have been productive. Mainly I have been keeping up with my other page, posting every single painting I have ever done. Doing that with a commentary on each one is no small feat.

I’ve also been writing in my “journal” more. Writing by hand tends to slow one down and force him to focus and think about each word (not to mention spelling without a crutch). Most of that will never see the light of day on here. No one may ever read it, it may never help me be productive on this page, but at least it helped me through the difficulties of life for a time.

There is a certain temptation to air all my dirty laundry here. This could easily become just a public diary to gripe about my struggles. But personal matters are often best kept personal, especially when they involve others. So I have tended to stay away from here, just so I don’t fall prey to that temptation.

Honestly, “time for myself” is often just as simple as sitting down and writing out a train of thought that’s been bugging me. Clearing my head and organizing thoughts on a page is frequently all I need to do to relieve the stress of my day.

But sometimes it’s not.

And I have no idea what to do instead.

Kinda done with it all right now…

The Ravings of Mad Men

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have been reading “Philosophy 101”. I say reading, but it’s more like slugging through. Sometimes I blank out and realize I have “read” three pages and have no idea what just happened. I go back and re-read and realize, yes, this was in fact a bunch of nonsense.

It doesn’t stick because most Philosophy is pure nonsense. I used to joke that Philosophers were just people who stated the obvious in a profound way. Having read the summaries of a few of them now I see that many of them state complete absurdity in a profound way. It’s the “profound” that makes them “philosophers” and not “asylum patients”.

Reading all of it does stir the old noggin. My head is now filled with so many questions, queries, and concerns. I feel like Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph. D. from Yellow Submarine: “Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time. So much to know!”

Concerned that maybe my brain is just too old to process all the material I picked up a book I read years ago: RC Sproul’s “The Consequences of Ideas”. It’s almost like light switches were clicked on. Sproul is far superior in explaining the various philosophers than ol’ What’s His Face. It reads as smooth as butter, no re-reading needed.

But man has my mind been chugging. We are all influenced by the environment we grow up in, the people we choose to be around, and the general culture at large. Is it possible to invent one’s own personal philosophy? More importantly, is it possible to find a real, workable philosophy in Sacred Scripture? What is God’s philosophy? What is man’s? Where do these mesh?

I am relieved when I read or hear someone else coming to conclusions I have reached on my own or with a little help from books. Or maybe I was just influenced long ago and it’s only now coming back to my memory once refreshed by a re-read. I feel this relief frequently reading this book. All of it is coming back to me, with new-ish conclusions and a ton of dots connected.

I haven’t finished either book yet, but it is striking to see the differences between Christian philosophers and the Ravings of Mad Men. When one is hopeless all he can do is promote hopelessness. When one believes in nothing all he can do is promote absurdities. It’s only through belief in the true and living God can men come to any reasonable philosophy about truth and meaning.

I hope I can keep up with all of it!

Perspective

Perspective is a hell of a thing.

What we may perceive as small is actually an illusion created by our relative position to the object. This kind of illusion applies to many places in life, not just visually. Sometimes when we are distant from a person we tend to underestimate the big affairs going on in his or her life.

Sure, we may see the problems, clearly even. But because of our distance from the situation we may interpret what we see as a small issue. We may even think “we could handle that, why don’t they seem able to?”

But we don’t see how big the problem truly is to the person standing right under its power.

The only way to truly see how big the troubles are in someone’s life is to get closer to them. Spend time with them, talk to them, maybe share some of your big struggles with them to encourage them to bring up theirs.

Remind them that with time and distance problems always seem to shrink. What seemed big last week is now a tiny speck on the horizon of memory.

Of course this also should remind us all that what appears to be a little problem way out there in the future may end up quite large by the time we confront it. Small problems grow to big ones if not taken care of.

Don’t let your perceptions fool you. “Small” is not always small.

Thankfully “big” isn’t always big either.

What Am I Doing Here?

While I am sure no one has noticed, sometimes posts pop up and then disappear on here. This is because I am a scatter brained mess. Sometimes I write something and I just think “nahhh, I don’t really want to post this.” and because I don’t know how to use the app as well as I should I schedule the post for a few months out and forget about it.

I think two of them have popped up this week, lingering only a few minutes until I rescheduled them for next month.

Part of the problem is that I have too much going on in my life and in my mind. As much as I like to think I’m a great multitasker, just ask my wife, she’ll probably tell you I’m not even that good at one thing at a time. Apparently I’m good at something if she’s still around…

Anywho. What have I been up to?

Well, I’ve been reading “Philosophy 101” by Paul Kleinman. It’s a basic overview of Western philosophy from pre-Socrates to the modern day. Sometimes it’s difficult to follow, sometimes it’s easy. The easy ones are probably the ones I agree with, so I have a bias.

Personally, I don’t think Mr. Kleinman is the best writer. I have read some of the philosophers he discusses and I understand the direct subject matter better than his descriptions of them. If your summary is harder to understand than the source material, I don’t know what that says about you.

Despite the difficulty of getting through some of the sections, I have learned much. And what I have learned has been surprisingly helpful.

I used my newfound knowledge to debate with Presuppositionalists on Facebook. No one won.

I also “used” it while watching “The End of the F***ing World” on Netflix. Knowing a little more about Existentialism and Nihilism makes the dark humor go down smoother.

Good show. But I cried hysterically afterwards. I don’t recommend watching it after a long week of losing pets and fighting with loved ones. Maybe save it for a day when you just want to feel a bit of ennui, not when you’re already immersed in full blown anxiety.

When this girl cries, you cry too…
And I mean ugly cry.

In addition to finding new shows I have found new music as well. Go check out “Clueless” by Hensley and pretty much the entire catalog of “Remo Drive“. Good stuff.

I’ve also been enjoying the new Steemit. For those of you who only read this on WordPress, you really ought to go check out Steemit. It’s a slow process but eventually it starts paying off. Perhaps one day the cryptocurrency markets will get back up to what they were back in late 2017 and my Steemit account will be worth loads of cash. Until then I will be content with my measly amount.

There are various and sundry other things happening, not all of them blog-worthy. Some are still processing and may end up as posts which pop up and then disappear, or even posts which stick around forever.

Keep watching!

It’s OK To Be Racist

Okayyyyy

No it really isn’t okay to be a racist. But it did get you to click, didn’t it?

I woke up this morning to an alert about an incident involving Universal Studios and the firing of an employee for inappropriate behavior. My first thought was, is this really a news story? Surely an HR problem at Universal Studios is not alert worthy news. I swiped it aside and forgot about it for five minutes.

Then it struck me, this employee was fired for making the international symbol of “made you look“. Any Millenial who has not been hiding in the dark recesses of his parent’s basement knows this game. Someone says “What’s this?” while looking down. The unknowing victim looks and sees this gesture:

And then the victim goes “Ohhh, got me!” while the trickster chuckles and says “Got eem!” and gets to punch the arm of anyone who looked.

It’s all good fun.

Apparently this gesture is now “racist”.

Hence the “outrage” felt by this interracial family from Colorado who unknowingly fell prey to the game whilst visiting Universal Studios in Orlando.

That kid must be a racist!

Even the USA Today story admits that it’s important to understand that symbols have context. Without knowing the history of this employee how can we know for sure that he made the gesture as a racist prank? Did Universal actually investigate? Did they actually find anything?

For that matter, did they even actually fire him? Seeing as he was in costume, it would be easy for the company to lie and say he was fired as a virtue signal which could then be reported as front page news. How do we even know the employee is a male? Too many questions that the media hasn’t answered.

The first I heard of this gesture being “racist” was when the Anti-Defamation League decided to add it to their “Hate on Display” list. Was it racist in March? Would this employee know that?

Who knew?

I have seen people harassed for nonsense like this before. When I was a kid there was a local high school teacher and coach suspended because the baseball team was using a Klan symbol for a good luck charm. He supposedly knew there were connotations but since the team members were doing it out of tradition (and appeared ignorant of the connection) he didn’t stop them. He was practically drug out on a rail because he was “a racist.”

One of the professors at my university was threatened for handing out exams “differently” to black students on the front row of the classroom. They perceived the act as racist, and therefore it was racist.

I’m sorry, but hand gestures, random symbols, and non-motivated acts are not racist. They are what they are. Unless the person or persons making the gestures, drawing the symbols, or committing the act does so with the intent of displaying some sort of belief in racial superiority it is simply not racism.

I once helped get a real racist fired from my workplace. He was quite vocal about his beliefs that people of color (blacks and Hispanics in particular), Jews, and women were inferior species. He threatened to punch me in the face when I called him out on it. Since we worked with a black woman, several white women, and many Hispanics, we felt he was a liability, especially in the dangerous line of work we were in.

It practically took an act of congress to get him fired. Which is why I am calling BS on this story. This looks more like a “stir the pot” story to me. Note, the offended family has houses in Colorado and Orlando, and they can afford to go to a special event at Universal. Maybe it’s a stretch, but could this just be another case of rich liberal “outrage”?

I’m waiting for the follow up to see how this story turns out.

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Is It Wrong To Want Things?

Sometimes you just have to scrap an entire blog. My original title for this was “Happiness As a Goal”. But I’ve renamed it and rewritten it. And then rewrote it again. And then renamed it again.

So here it is, after a ton of editing:

I have struggled with the concept of wants and needs for a while. God gives us everything we need, so everything we don’t have we don’t need, right? And if God doesn’t give it to us and we don’t need it, it’s sinful to want it, right?

For a long time I felt that contentment meant being completely satisfied with what you have. This means that any desire for something one doesn’t have is discontentment and therefore sinful.

This was my train of thought: It is a sin to be discontent, to be content means you don’t want anything, you are satisfied with what you have. Therefore to want is to be discontent, therefore to want is to sin. Furthermore, God gives us everything we need, if we don’t have it we don’t need it. If we don’t need it we just want it, and wanting anything is a sin.

From the last three paragraphs you can see why my life has become kind of messy. I have shoved down a lot of desires and drives mistaking them for sin. This has made me a bit of a limp noodle. If wants and desires are inherently sinful what’s the point of trying? After all, you’re going to get what you need.

But then I realized that the Bible clearly talks about wants.

“You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:2b-3

James does not condemn his audience for asking for things.

In 1 John we read this:
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

One only asks for things if one wants something. Since asking is not condemned, wanting is not condemned. I was wrong to think merely having wants was sinful. God clearly wants us to want things that are in accordance with His will and to ask Him for them. Asking is encouraged, and we are to do it with confidence.

Ultimately I don’t have to feel shame or guilt for wanting things (or experiences, or good feelings). But I do have to ask the question “is this in accordance with God’s will?”

Probably the easiest way to determine this is to ask the questions “Do I want this purely for selfish gain? Does my desire ultimately serve others and/or bring glory to God?” If the answer to the first is no and the answer to the second is yes then I am free to ask and to pursue what I want.

This whole train of thought has further implications, obviously. This is me after all. I can’t keep anything too simple. Keep checking back and I will try to further expound on these thoughts in other posts as I get to them.

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