Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned

Rambles & Brambles

The Acrid Scent of Red Sharpie

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When I was younger, my energy, enthusiasm, and motivation ran at about an 11 all the time.

It’s more than just the ever-present pickling of years that leads to where I am now. I’m more aware of social injustice and have a sharpened understanding of my own helplessness in the jaws of a system that whispers promises of the power of the many.

I feel tired — soul-tired and bone-tired all at once — more often than I don’t.

And I feel guilty when I see how little I’ve produced. I feel worried when I re-read a chapter, fingers smoothing over the crinkled edges where I’ve erased and edited and bled and finally just left as an exercise for future-me.

I’ve done better.

I should be doing better.

I should be better.

A better writer. A better person. A better friend. A better daughter. A better aunt.

That’s not even the full list of nouns that hang around my neck like so many decorative, hand-knit nooses.

Every once in a while, I can feel the flickering light of a resurgence of enthusiasm. I set goals. I’ll work out more. I’ll write and draw every day.

Then the enthusiasm shivers and hisses and dies back down and I’m left staring at a list of homework assignments that I’ve given myself. And the hours turn into days, and each task gets covered in a big red F surrounded by the acrid scent of sharpie markers and failure.

I need to be kind to myself.

Not just in a patronizing “surely you’ll do better next time” kind of way.

I need to be kind to myself. Without turning a kind word inward, I’ll never make it. I’ll just burn out trying to light too many candles, and wonder where all my wax has gone.

When I’m feeling enthusiasm and energy is a bad time to set goals. I appreciate those times, and need to make the most of them, but I can’t hold myself to that as a daily standard.

I’m not looking for advice or sympathy.

I’m just trying to figure out how to look back on a night spent with an open book and a mug of tea without staining the memory in a thick coat of red sharpie. To value the clean home and the quiet night as being worthy and good enough. They don’t have to be a dirty secret. They can be a goal. They can be a positive checkmark for a way to end a day. They are a success in and of themselves, and not just a cute pitstop on the highway of life.

Hedgewitches and Clickbait

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They say magic is dead in our world. Flattened beneath the tires of metal cars, silenced by a blaring laugh track played late into the night before a slumped figure in a recliner. Burned to ash beneath the bright light of technology.

The clever old ones wrapped themselves with ordinariness and sewed their blessings into baby quilts made from scraps dug out from the bottoms of forgotten discount rag bins. They kneaded curses into the twisted creases of sourdough bread and sold handmade dolls with too-bright eyes from shabby stalls at farmer’s markets. Use this scented soap to capture the attention of your beloved. Drink this potion and watch the years melt away from the crow’s feet at your eyes.

It adapted. It survived.

5-day juice cleanses and black candles lit beneath the blind eye of the new moon. A whispered breath of panic across the dash of a tired Chevrolet, fevered breath stirring the engine to turn over one more day.

Magic isn’t kind. It isn’t cruel.

Far beneath the distant roar of airplanes, laughing children chant ancient rhymes, old cookbooks spill out forgotten recipes for rhubarb cobbler, and bright cell phone screens whisper secrets about the growing season of carrots. A young man buys a sewing machine. An old woman blows the dust from a ukulele.

A chill wind blows past a window and a jagged shadow dances across the curtains. An unnecessary light is left on in a sensible beige bedroom. Someone walks just a little faster and doesn’t quite turn their head to look into the cemetery they pass on their way to work every day.

Close your eyes and you can see the magic pressing against the seams of this world, a swirl of invisible nothings dancing against a patchwork of grey, moving too fast to see and too slow to be only your imagination.

Magic isn’t dead. It can’t be pushed aside by video games and central air. It can’t be killed by human hands or crushed beneath the weight of human gods.

Pinched Nerve

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Anyone else notice how when you have a pinched nerve, nothing else matters?

Like a coworker is all “how are you?” and you just want to respond “pinched nerve, and you?”

Or how no matter what you do, from unloading the dishwasher to turning the page in a book, your body is all “hey, remember that pinched nerve? Still there! Have some pain!”

Or how you start keeping up a running commentary about how noble and strong you are for keeping up with your normal house chores and maintaining a baseline of personal cleanliness? “Look at her, swanning across the living room as if she hadn’t a care in the world. Look now, as she picks up the mug from last night’s tea and not only carries it to the kitchen, she deposits the teabag in the trash, rinses the mug (oh dear, that one really cost her) and puts it in the dishwasher?! Truly, she is a paragon among humanity, gritting her teeth and showing so few signs of just how excruciating this experience must surely be. She deserves accolades! Awards! Praise! Ibuprofin!”

No?

Me neither.

Robot Vacuum

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My old Robovac died last week, and the cat hair tumbleweeds are starting to get out of control. (RIP Kirby, you were beloved by all, even though you choked on cat toys and got stuck under the chair)

New Robovac is now sipping delicately upon her first prongful of go-juice. She has been shown the corpse of her predecessor so that she knows her place in this world, and I have set myself down to learn how to best use her abilities.

Her name, by the way, is Euphegenia Doubtfire. Her brand is “eufy” so it seemed fitting.

ANYWAY, here’s the list of helpful illustrated warnings on her use.

a) Your robo vac will become frightened when exposed to its own dependence upon power cables. Never let it believe it is not as alive as you or I.

b) Your robovac will become enraged at the sight of tassles or any other fringe-based textiles. As too should you be. Why are you wearing a leather fringe? Give up the ghost, it will never look as good on you as it did in that sexy cowboy calendar you keep hidden in your closet. yes, we know about that.

c) Do not allow your robovac to hide under furniture. It will do so at every opportunity, and wallow in sadness and depression until it no longer works. Make sure your robovac has access to sunlight on a regular basis.

d) We repeat, do not allow your robovac to cry. This will invalidate its warranty

e) Do not let your robovac weigh itself. See rules 3 and 4.

f) Your robovac should be encouraged to explore healthy activities, such as the high dive at your local pool.

Haircut

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I got a new haircut and now Tiny is following me around the house, beeping in concern and purring in short, confused spurts.

My cat is not smart, but he is very sweet, y’all.

Motivation Styles – Upholders, Questioners Obligers, and Rebels

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I … am addicted to online personality tests and delving into my own psyche using different tools.

This is my newest discovery, thanks to the 10% Happier podcast. It talks about motivation, specifically.

The animation itself is adorable and extremely well done, but I found myself thinking about it long after it was over, and even going back and watching it again.

Because I am not an Upholder – the type of person who has no problem fulfilling both external and internal obligations.

Instead, I am an Obliger. External obligations? No problem, I am ON this. “You can count on me! And I am COUNTING ON YOU TO COUNT ON ME.” came a little close to home.

So my problems with motivating myself to keep writing — they revolve a lot around my own feelings of self-doubt. I don’t think I’m as good as I want to be, and I certainly don’t feel as good as other people say I am. In fact, I feel pretty terrible most of the time.

The solution isn’t to try and force myself to be an Upholder — I shouldn’t keep telling myself that if I really wanted this, I need to be able to do it on my OWN, just for me, without caring about other people and what they want.

(To a certain extent, yes, but there’s also a large part of what motivates me that comes from other people validating what I’m doing.)

So what does that mean for me? I’m not sure, to be honest. It means I need to build some kind of external support group that cares more that I -am- writing. Who can reassure me I’m not just spouting word-garbage on the page.

I’m not sure what that looks like, tbh. Because in the past, that revolved around me trying to heavily edit my share-outs, and as we all know, that didn’t work out so well either. My perfectionism got in the way. I need to be able to write ROUGH and FAST and keep moving, secure in the knowledge that I can go back and fix it later.

I dunno. I have a lot to think about.

“Perfectionism is kind of a misnomer, actually, because it’s not about being perfect. Perfectionists don’t actually strive to be perfect — they worry about never being good enough. […] dare to be average.”

10% happier — Episode: 170 — Ellen Hendricks, Rising Above Social Anxiety

Bad Ideas Lead to Good Ideas – An Excerpt

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“Making Things Happen – Mastering Project Management” by Scott Berkun

This is an excerpt from Chapter Five: Where Ideas Come From


Bad Ideas Lead to Good Ideas

I first saw a designer design something when I was a junior in college. I didn’t really know what designers did, and I thought that — for the most part — they made things look pretty: designer jeans, designer handbags, etc. Anyway, this young man was designing a new kind of portable stero. He sat at his desk in the design department undergraduate studio, which was a big, open space with lots of tables, sketches, prototypes, and blueprints all over the place. He was sketching out different ideas, each one an alternative design for the stereo. I asked him what he was doing, or more precisely, how what he was doing fit into “designing” — whatever that meant to him.

He thought it over for a moment, smiled, and told me “I don’t really know what the good ideas look like until I’ve seen the bad ones.” I nodded politely, but dismissed him entirely. I chalked up my inability to understand what he was saying to my perception of him as an odd, creative-type person, and not to my own ignorance.

It was only after I’d spent a couple of years designing software that I understood what he was saying. I’d learned through experience that good ideas often require the remains of many bad ideas. Without making mistakes and oversights in many different attempts, it’s often impossible to find the path of ideas that leads to success … Perhaps it’s only when an idea doesn’t work and we’re confronted with failure that we’re forced to review our assumptions. An only then, when we step back with more information, can we see the path that wasn’t visible to us before.

So, the best ideas and designs require momentum. They don’t arrive as the result of a magic spell or force of will (“Be brilliant, now! I mean now! How about…now!”). Every drawing, sketch, or prototype, no matter how ridiculous or pathetic, teaches the designer (or engineer or scientist) a little something more about the problem, and increases the odds that the next attempt will be better than the last. Every great mind that has pursued the solving of complex problems in the world has done so surrounded by large piles of crumpled paper. Some have lied about this, others have embraced it. If nothing else, this notion that bad ideas lead to good ones frees us to start designing however we choose. We should fully expect to get our hands dirty and make lots of early mistakes because the sooner we make them, the sooner we’ll move on to better ideas.

Subnautica is Nautically Hypnotic

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Subnautica is an aquatic survival game available on most platforms and I strongly recommend it.

I’m going to keep this as spoiler-free as I can, but since the definition of a spoiler is in the eye of the beholder, I will leave it to reader discretion on how far you want to continue reading.

Survival Game

Some of you may not be familiar with “survival” as a genre. In short, it’s the kind of game where you find yourself marooned/alone/naked/whatever in a hostile environment and you have to survive.

Most of the time, that involves starting out by punching a tree or a rock or something, then crafting some kind of weapon. By the end, you’ve built an impenetrable base of awesomeness.

Minecraft is a survival game. Ark, Don’t Starve, Rust … even Fortnite falls into this bucket.

Subnautica is by FAR my favorite one that I’ve played.

Okay, but Water?

I know, I know. “The Water Level” is gamer code for “Horrible, Terrible, Worst Level Ever.”

Subnautica got the water level so right that the few times you need to move around on land feel awkward and garbage. Underwater movement is fluid, easy, and for the most part intuitive. Never thought I’d see the day, but there you have it.

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Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned